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Renting vs. Buying – Which Leads to Better Financial Security?

by Scott Jensen, Financial Planning Consultant with COUNTRY Financial

“Renting is just throwing money away. You should always buy instead.” Who hasn’t heard similar statements? It seems like sound advice, but is it really?

It’s kind of like asking the question, “How long is a rope?” The answer, of course, is “it depends.” Like many things in life the truth is largely a function of circumstances and goals. While a recent survey by COUNTRY Financial found that 63% of Americans who own their own home feel financially secure compared to 39% of renters, the survey results also show that there is an enormous grey area that exists between the two options.

Our conclusion is influenced by our benchmark for determining success. Are we evaluating the options based on the lifestyle differences or on raw dollars and cents? For example, Americans surveyed by COUNTRY Financial said that freedom and control (39%) and desire for more personal space (36%) were their top two reasons for buying a home. It’s entirely possible to have one option be the clear-cut winner when evaluated from a lifestyle perspective but also be the hands down loser from a financial viewpoint. A proper evaluation should examine both. In the full light of day, after all aspects are thoroughly understood and fairly valued, then we can make the best decision, regardless of what that may be.

Renting and buying aren’t fundamentally good or bad. There are valid arguments to made for each path. Some compelling arguments for buying could be: 

  • Once the mortgage is paid off you have more free cash flow each month.
  • As a homeowner you get to reap the profits from potential appreciation in your home’s value.
  • If you itemize your deductions the government helps pay some of the financing cost through lower taxes (though this impact may be limited with the larger standard deduction).

Renting has legitimate strong points as well:

  • Renting gives you options. You may have more flexibility as a renter than a homeowner.
  • Renting isn’t throwing money away. You have a place to live that may be less costly than home ownership.
  • What about the opportunity cost associated with buying? What else could you accomplish with the down payment, property taxes, insurance premiums, and loan interest?
  • You’re not the landlord. You don’t have to pay for repairs, maintenance, or other issues that come up.

The answer may depend on where you live too. Some markets are prime places for buyers and others for renters. You also need to understand factors like how long you will be in the area, do you need room for animals, will certain ways of coming up with a down payment negatively impact your retirement and emergency funding goals, are you getting yourself in over your head with a money pit, etc.

The bottom line is: sometimes it’s smarter to rent, and sometimes buying is the right answer. Buying a home for the sake of owning is irrational. Rather than holding dogmatically to one view or the other, make your decision based on the economic factors of your specific situation and your personal lifestyle preferences.

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COUNTRY Financial® is the marketing name for the COUNTRY Financial family of affiliated companies (collectively, COUNTRY), which include COUNTRY Life Insurance Company®, COUNTRY Mutual Insurance Company®, and their respective subsidiaries, located in Bloomington, Illinois.

Information contained herein may have been obtained in part from sources not controlled by or associated with COUNTRY Mutual Insurance Company®, COUNTRY Life Insurance Company®, and their respective subsidiaries and affiliates (COUNTRY Financial®).  Although we endeavor to provide accurate information, COUNTRY Financial does not warrant or guaranty the accuracy or reliability the information contained in this article.  Additionally, this article may contain hyperlinks to sites not controlled by or associated with COUNTRY Financial.  COUNTRY Financial is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content and information of any third-party sites.