To Rent or to Buy: Costs to consider when making your decision
When it comes to home care and upgrades, renting and ownership each have their pros and cons. Stop where you are now,
The question of whether to rent or buy can pop up more than once in life, and at any stage. Several elements enter into the complicated and very personal equation leading to your answer, and one category that can be expensive to leave out is that of home improvement and maintenance.
When it comes to home care and upgrades, renting and ownership each have their pros and cons. Stop where you are now, take an honest look at your priorities, and address the following categories.
Now and over the next few years, what is the realistic amount of time youll be able to devote to routine maintenance, improvements and surprise repairs? These are part of the territory when it comes to home ownership, whether taken on as do-it-yourself projects or supervised endeavors involving professionals. If you travel often for business or have other priorities that pull you away from home on a regular basis, the demands of a home could make for a bad match. Repair crises almost never happen according to your preferred schedule.
As a renter, youre freed from the responsibility of tasks beyond maintaining the cleanliness and general order of your unit. When an appliance breaks down, carpeting wears out or a light fixture is literally on the blink, all you have to do is call the super and things are righted, usually at no cost to you. The down side of this arrangement is that youre relying on someone else to get the work done, so before becoming a tenant, ask direct questions about a propertys maintenance policies, response time and staffing. Once youve moved in, back up any maintenance requests in writing to track response and compliance with your rental agreement.
Along with property taxes, insurance and purchase fees, home care costs should be part of your buying budget. If you stumble upon your dream home, resist falling in love and opening your pockets until youve engaged the services of a professional home inspector. After his or her inside-and-out assessment, youll know what potential problems and projects lurk beneath the sparkling exterior, and can address them in both your purchase agreement and long-term budget. To find a qualified home inspector, use the Find A Home Inspector tool on the Web site for the nations most respected home inspection professional society, the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). ASHI members must meet rigourous and ongoing experience, examination, educational and ethical requirements to secure and maintain membership.
Also invisible are the costs of routine maintenance. Lawns dont usually stay green on their own and HVAC systems dont change their own filters, so plan for year-round needs. These may include monthly costs for services such as landscape maintenance and housekeeping, or the employment of a handyperson -- if youre not. Finally, there are those big surprises that no one sees coming. So, pad your savings for home emergencies, and youll save yourself some stress as well.
Back in Rentland, surprise costs can result from property malfunctions or tenant negligence, so be attentive to sudden changes and issues in your unit. Carry renters insurance to protect your personal belongings, and understand what kinds of damage and replacements arent covered by the maintenance policy.
Design for living
Whether rented or owned, every living space provides a virtually blank canvas for personal style, but the name on the mortgage determines how much you can actually paint in. Some rental properties allow tenant changes such as wall and window treatments, but these are rare and can end up costing you when the unit needs to be returned to its original state at move-out time. Restrictions may also apply to picture-hanging hardware, window ledge displays and patio maintenance, and can affect the extent of your security deposit refund.
Ownership may mean more responsibility, but it also means no restrictions on the design elements and amenities in your home. Change this and replace that to your hearts and wallets content, choosing products with quality and styling for years of enjoyment between all those maintenance projects.
Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the shows podcast or sign-up for Toms free weekly e-newsletter, visit the programs Web site.