Do you dream of owning that perfect little house with a white picket fence and front porch in suburbia, or a quintessential log cabin in the mountains, or a glitzy penthouse in a bustling city? Owning a home is still the American dream for a majority of people – but that dream is not quite as strong or trusting as before.
In the 2014 How Housing Matters survey released in June by the non-profit MacArthur Foundation found that while 70 percent of non-owners still aspire to own a home someday, two-thirds of the public (64 percent) believe it is less likely today than 20-30 years ago for a family to build equity and wealth through homeownership.
Sometimes, renting just might be the ticket for certain people in certain situations financially and time-wise, says Kurt Rossi, president and wealth advisor at Independent Wealth Management in Wall, N.J.
“First thing people need to consider is their timetable. A lot of people go from job to job and area to area. If you have time on your side and you know you are going to be in one place plus you have the money for the down payment, then purchasing a home is a great thing,” he says.
But if you do move a lot and need the freedom to move, buying a house or condo might just be a thorn in your side with logistics, and you probably will lose money.
“You won’t be able to offset the money you spent on the transaction and the other costs you put into the home. You also will then have moving costs again when you move so quickly,” he says.
Plus, if you can’t sell it quickly, you have another headache to deal with.
Trulia: Buying is Still Cheaper than Renting
A report done earlier this year by Jed Kolko, chief economist at Trulia, an online residential real estate site, shows that homeownership compared to renting continues to be the less expensive way to live in all of the 100 largest metro areas. The research compared the price of owning and renting assuming buyers received a 4.5 percent interest rate with 20 percent down and a 30-year fixed term loan. The researchers also assumed that the owners are in the 25 percent tax bracket and would stay in their home seven years.
“At a 30-year fixed rate of 4.5 percent, buying is 38 percent cheaper than renting nationally, versus being 44 percent cheaper one year ago,” Kolko says in the report.
Of course, there are some markets across the country that might start tipping in favor of renting sometime this year as the prices for houses rise faster than rent prices and if mortgage rates rise, too.
Nationally, interest rates would have to rise to 10.6 percent for renting to be cheaper than buying, and rates haven’t been that high since 1989, Kolko says.
But Rossi says that places like New York City, the prices of buying a condo or house is out of reach for many potential homeowners. Plus, once you actually buy the house, there are so many extra costs to add in such as window treatments which can run into the thousands of dollars.
“Many people overlook those expenses when thinking about buying a house,” he says.
Young Buyers should Assess their Future
He has seen many younger people in their 20s and early 30s say that owning a home is no longer a priority. But for those people he is helping who want to own, he tells that that they must first get an honest assessment of their financial picture.
“Too often, people don’t have enough in cash reserves. You never know when a company will down size, and you will lose your job. Plus, you need enough money to still put toward your retirement, pay for insurance and other expenses,” he says.
In the How Housing Matters survey, 62 percent of distressed owners – those paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing – have made at least one sacrifice in paying their mortgage. Twenty-seven percent have stopped saving for retirement, 23 percent have cut back on health care, and 23 percent have accumulated credit card debt.
“So many people don’t know their breakpoint – budget-wise. They get in to trouble over extending themselves especially the younger people,” Rossi says.
Those thinking about home ownership should really ask themselves how purchasing a home affects their ability to save for other goals such as retirement education funding for your children.
It’s also helpful to compare renting versus buying based on where you live or are going to live. Rossi suggests one of the many interactive tools online to help determine whether you should purchase or rent. These calculators compare median mortgage payments with rents and other aspects.
“And when you do decide to buy a house, the major mistake is not doing a good job of negotiating a deal. They always say if you aren’t embarrassed by your offer, it’s too high,” he says. “By getting the very best deal, your financing will be less and you will have more cash leftover.”