The American dream of owning a house may just be helping some people out by saving them money – in some cases, big bucks compared to renting.
Lots of research goes into figuring out whether homeownership compared to renting is still less expensive. In fact, a recent analysis by Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit that helps finance affordable housing, shows that more than one in four renters pay at last half the family income to housing and utilities. The government classifies any housing costs over 30 percent of income as burdensome.
That’s a lot of people – about 11.25 million – who have some expensive burdens just put a roof over their heads.
So, is buying a home cheaper for some than renting? Well, there are some personal stories that show this is happening – and it’s happening in some of the biggest, most expensive cities where rents are skyrocketing along with the value of homes.
For instance, Trulia, an online residential real estate site, shows that there isn’t much difference in renting or buying in San Francisco.
However, artist and musician Kenneth Zink bunked that norm a few years ago by buying a bank-owned property in the San Francisco Bay area for $121,700 with an FHA mortgage and $7,500 down. The previous owners had bought it in 2006 for $430,000. The housing crash dashed that family’s dreams of remodeling the entire three-bedroom, two-bath home, but it allowed Zink to pay a lot less for the house per month than rent.
Event with putting in $100,000 to remodel the entire place, he now only pays $1,420 a month for the historic 1918 bungalow.
“The average rent just across the bay for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is three times what my mortgage payment is. I’m hoping to get $450,000 for it now,” he says.
The National Association of REALTORS® shows that in the past five years, typical rent rose 15 percent but the income of renters only grew 11 percent. Danielle Hale, director of housing statistics at the NAR headquartered in Washington, D.C., says that renting or buying should have a lot to do with the length of time someone will be staying in one place.
“If your job will be putting you somewhere else soon or retirement is imminent, and you will be moving to a different part of the country, it just makes more sense to rent,” she says.
She adds though that there is some hope that there will be more homes available to buy, which could help keep prices down or at least give more options to people. Inventory constraints in both places to buy or rent have kept prices high.
But construction starts for single family housing is up 19 percent this July from last July.
“We’ve seen big increase just the last few months – such as 16 percent in May and 15 percent in April, Hale says.
Even when the economy crashed, areas of New York just continued to be very high for renting or buying.
But Dana Humphrey, who owns a boutique public relations agency, found her financial paradise by finally owning a home. She used to pay $1,300 a month in rent for a one-bedroom apartment. To live there now, it would cost $1,800 because the rent when up when she moved out.
She only moved four blocks away to buy her one-bedroom coop. The mortgage on her 10-year adjusted rate mortgage is only $600 a month along with a $488 monthly maintenance fee. It has 800 square feet of room along with three closets, a kitchen, living room, bathroom and bedroom with bike storage and laundry in the basement. There’s also a garden area to allow for some outdoor living in a common area with other coop owners.
“So, I’m significantly saving each month, plus I’ll own it soon,” the 32-year-old says. “I’ve been paying a double mortgage each month to pay if off faster. In 1 ½ years of owning, it has gone up in value by $89,000.”
To figure out whether owning would be cheaper than renting, many calculators exist online to help you figure it all out with all the expenses for both.
Sometimes to make buying a home work financially, some people do creative things. For instance, Scott Trench, 24, of the Denver area, bought a duplex for $240,000 in Nov. 2014 after paying $550 a month in rent. He lived very frugally for a few years to save every dollar he could for a down payment.
He rents out the other unit for $1,150 per month and rents one of the bedrooms on his side of the duplex for $550. His mortgage payments are $1,525, and his total rents collected are $1,700.
“I live basically for free, after you account for things like the water, sewer and repairs/maintenance. I try to save a little bit more than that to make sure that if any big problems go wrong, I have enough cash to cover unexpected expenses,” he says.
All this has worked out so well for him that he was able to go from 5 percent equity on his FHA mortgage to already having 20 percent equity because of the surge in Denver’ property values and some of the remodeling he has made. Trench, director of operations at BiggerPockets.com (which encourages others to build finances through real estate), is already able to refinance the property to lower his monthly payments. Plus, his savings from living for free have put him in the position to buy another similar property next year.