Is It Better to Rent or Buy? 9 Questions to Ask Yourself
Relocating can be exciting and full of new adventures just waiting to be uncovered. However, it can also be full of pitfalls and problems if you’re not careful. Moving to a new place creates a lot of uncertainty – the first of which is the question of if you should buy or rent your new space. So, is it better to rent or buy? To be honest, that’s a tricky question that depends on a lot of different factors.
We’re going to cover some of those factors, as well as nine questions you can ask yourself to uncover which option is better for your current financial situation and needs.
Is it Better To Rent or Buy? 9 Questions To Ask.
You can’t just answer the question, “Is it better to rent or buy?” flat-out, especially for someone like you who is in the military or in a military family. When you’re moving around every few years, the situation gets even more complicated than it already is for civilians.
If you need help in your decision to rent or buy, we have you covered with a ton of helpful questions that should assist you in uncovering the best choice for your lifestyle.
1. Where Are You Being Stationed?
Perhaps the biggest factor that should be considered when asking yourself, “Is it better to rent or buy?” is location. You’ve probably heard location, location, location jokingly at least once or twice in your life. However, you can never overestimate the role that location plays in where you want to live.
Do your research on your new station. Is it in a big city? Is it in the middle of nowhere? Big cities tend to come with a much higher cost of living, which may not be the most effective choice for people who are moving, depending on how much you have saved. Rural areas can be nice, usually offering a lower cost of living for buyers, but many people find rural living to be restrictive.
In extremes like these (big city/very rural area), renting may be easier, more convenient, and more cost-effective for you.
Learn more about your duty station and the local area at MyBaseGuide.
2. How Long Are You Being Stationed?
The length of your posting also plays a huge part in your decision to buy or rent your next place. PCS orders are generally between two and four years on average. However, you could also be assigned to temporary duty or lengthier assignments.
If you’re on temporary duty, it won’t make much sense for you to go through the home-buying process when you’re only going to stay for a very short period of time.
Those average assignments can be tricky, though. Do you feel like going through an intensive selling process once your next set of PCS orders arrives? Leaving a home you’ve purchased can be more involved than leaving an apartment or other rental space. If you don’t feel like you’ll want to tackle selling your home within two or three years of moving in, it may be a better option to rent.
3. What Is Your BAH?
Your BAH is your basic allowance for housing, and it’s different depending on where you’re going to be living. The BAH for an area is set by looking at median market rent as well as the average amount spent on utilities.
If you find that the BAH for your new posting is pretty hefty, it might be more feasible for you to be able to buy a home since you’ll be receiving extra allowance. If you’re going to be stationed in an area with a measly BAH, renting may be easier on your bank account.
4. Do You Want To Build Equity?
If you’ve ever had to consider buying vs. leasing a car before, then the concept is pretty much the exact same. When you rent, you’re paying a landlord every month to stay in their space. That money is, for all intents and purposes, simply vanishing from your life.
When you’re paying for a home, you’re essentially putting that money back into your own pocket by building equity (and increasing the value) in the home over time.
When you receive your next PCS orders, you can sell your home and get a lot of that money back (depending on the state of the market). If you’re renting, when you leave, the only thing you’ll get back is a security deposit (allowing that you didn’t break anything).
5. Do You Want To Receive Tax Benefits?
You may not have known this, but you’ll receive some great tax benefits by buying a home. You can deduct specific costs related to homeownership when it comes time to do your taxes, which may make you lean towards “buy” when asking yourself, “Is it better to rent or buy?”
- First, you’ll be happy to know that you can deduct the interest you pay on your mortgage debt.
- Second, you can also deduct state and local property taxes for that year.
- Finally, if you received a VA loan and had to pay a funding fee, you can deduct that from your taxes, as well.
Bonus tax deduction: COVID got you down? There’s a tax benefit for that too! Sort of. If you’ve been relegated (or promoted, depending on your outlook) to a work-from-home office as a small business owner or freelancer, you can claim deductions for your home office! It is your workspace, after all.
If you have a separate structure (outside of your main home) on your own property that you use as an office, to store inventory, to hold meetings, or for other business-only purposes, you can claim deductions for it! This is great news for milspouses who hold work-from-home jobs while their loved one is out on duty.
6. Do You Want To Redesign Your Space?
If you’re into home design, you might want the freedom to paint the walls, put up some pictures, and make a few cosmetic renovations to your space. Buying a home gives you this freedom, whereas renting limits you to pretty much whatever you can hang on a Command strip.
For people who don’t care too much about updating or redesigning their space, renting won’t draw any negative benefits.
7. Do You Have Pets (or Plan To Get Any)?
Moving with pets is one thing; living with them once you arrive is another thing entirely.
When you’re living in your own space, you don’t have to worry about how your pets are affecting the carpet or floors, which could cost you a security deposit when you go to move out of a rented space. You also don’t have to pay hefty pet fees, which often consist of a down payment and then a monthly payment on top of that.
Think of the extra costs that owning pets could entail if you’re considering renting. Also take into consideration that you may not have your own yard, and you’ll have to be incredibly diligent in picking up after your pet every single time they use the bathroom.
Additionally, if you have a dog that’s more energetic or one that is a working breed, it might be more beneficial to them to have a home that gives them a free and open space to run around as much as they want.
8. Can You Keep Up With Home Maintenance?
When you’re living in an apartment, maintenance is easy. Usually, your landlord will handle any requests for problems in your home. At most, you may have to fill out and submit a maintenance request. Then, you just wait for the problem to be fixed. The worst part will be having to put presentable clothes on if someone needs to come inside your apartment.
If you decide that buying is the way to go, then you’re on your own for maintenance. If you’re a handyman, that would be no problem (unless you’re deployed and your basement starts flooding, yikes!). Otherwise, you’ll have to figure your way around finding reliable maintenance technicians and paying them.
9. How Much Paperwork Are You Willing To Do?
To put it frankly, there is a lot more paperwork involved in buying a home (and selling it) than there is for renting a home and moving out of the rental. If you’re someone who becomes easily overwhelmed when you’re looking at stacks on stacks of papers, it may be worth considering what all you’ll need to have and sign when buying a home.
Make sure you’re always looking at the bigger picture, and take all possible pros and cons into consideration before settling on a choice. Hopefully, these questions will help that bigger picture become a little clearer for you.
So is it better to rent or buy? Well, by now, you know the answer to that question isn’t so simple. But the questions we’ve covered above should provide you with enough clarity to make a decision and be confident in your choice to rent or buy your next place.
Suggested read: 10 of the Best Military Campgrounds & RV Parks in the United States