If you’re struggling with the question of whether you should rent or buy, you could start by boiling it all down to simple math. Take this scenario: Forbes says the median home price in the Atlanta, Sandy Springs and Marietta metropolitan area is $101,300.
Meanwhile, 2012’s average rent for an Atlanta apartment was over $750 a month. That’s probably more expensive than the monthly payment for that $101,300 house, assuming you have a typical 30-year mortgage with 4.8 percent interest.
But that doesn’t automatically make home-buying the winner — the monthly cost isn’t the only thing to think about.
In some cases, the decision to rent or buy comes down to how long you plan on staying in the house. If you only plan on staying in the area for a year or two, renting is often the cost-effective choice. Here’s an example: If you rent and pay the average of $766 a month, it’s more cost-effective for you to rent for up to three years. But, if you buy a home for the median price of $101,300, with between 5 percent and 20 percent down, buying is the more cost-effective choice if you stay for longer than three years.
Another factor that determines whether you should rent or buy is the down payment. If you only have a small amount of money saved, it’s usually in your best interests to keep renting until you save more. Making a down payment of less than 20 percent of the cost of the home means a higher interest rate and private mortgage insurance premiums.
You want to avoid wiping out your savings to buy a home. If your heater or refrigerator breaks a few months after you buy, you want to have the funds to repair or replace them without taking on additional debt.
What’s your debt like?
The amount you pay for housing shouldn’t be more than 28 percent of your gross income each month. The amount you pay towards all debt shouldn’t be more than 36 percent of your income. If you have a significant amount of debt, getting a mortgage can be tricky, as a lender might not be willing to lend you enough to cover the cost of the house. In that case, you should focus on reducing all debt before making the decision to buy.
Consider all expenses
When you buy or rent a house, it’s not just the cost of the mortgage or the cost of rent you need to worry about. Housing costs also include insurance premiums, utilities and taxes. If you’re renting, your landlord is responsible for property taxes and might even include the cost of some or all utilities in the rent. If you own your house, you’re responsible for the taxes, utilities and homeowners insurance.
Buying a home isn’t a decision to rush into. Carefully weigh the advantages of buying compared to renting before making your choice.
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