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New York Times Says It’s Better to Rent Than Buy

This article was written by in Real Estate and Home. 16 comments.

Yikes. Yesterday I was discussing my living options, and I’m thinking about buying a condominium when my lease is up. I’ve been in this apartment for longer than I had originally planned, and I can probably afford a modest condo.

Rent or Buy?According to a calculator offered by the New York Times, it makes more financial sense to keep renting. If you click the image, you can see the full results.

Assuming my rent at $901 increases 4% a year, a condo price of $215,000, a down payment of 20%, a mortgage rate of 6.25%, and property taxes of 4%, and a condo appreciation rate of 2%, it will never pay off to buy.

There are a bunch of assumptions, and it’s hard to say what the true scenario would be. By adjusting the sliders, changing the condo appreciation to 7%, it would be more profitable to buy after the 6th year of ownership. There are advanced settings, such as condo fees, deduction of fees, and annual renovation costs, but I didn’t adjust these in my short experiment.

What I would hope is that the general market will see the benefits of renting, so there is a possibility of keeping house prices down while I go through the process of buying.

Aside from the money, one thing holding me back from buying is the lack of the desire to stay in the area. Yet, I am still here.

Published or updated April 13, 2007. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Dan

“Assuming my rent at $901 …it will never pay off to rent.”

i think you meant it will never pay off to buy.

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avatar Luke Landes

Thanks for catching that. :-)

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avatar brett

You state “Assuming my rent at $901 increases 4% a year, a condo price of $215,000, a down payment of 20%, a mortgage rate of 6.25%, and property taxes of 4%, and a condo appreciation rate of 2%, it will never pay off to rent”

So why is does your title state it is better to rent than to buy?

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avatar Nick

Maybe it’s better to buy somewhere where the property taxes aren’t 4%!

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avatar MillionDollarJourney.com

Perhaps with the down turn in the US real estate market, you can pick up a deal sometime in the near future.


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avatar Matt

I’m not sure this factors in the income tax savings you can receive when you purchase a house.

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avatar Luke Landes

Matt: It does — check the advanced settings under “Buying” and the methodology page. It does assume that for the renting scenario, the amount you would drop as a down payment would be invested.

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avatar Luke Landes

In regards to the appreciation assumption, I wouldn’t be surprised if prices are somewhat flat around here the next few years.

Robin: I agree with houses vs. condos. I’m not sure if it makes sense to wait and save up to buy a house in a few years rather than finding a condo this year.

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avatar corey

How depressing. I just hope they don’t turn my new apartment into condos like last time. I can’t believe people are actually buying converted units like that, and paying “homeowner association” dues on top.

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avatar Robin

Flexo: depends on your budget. What can you afford to spend on a house?

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avatar Virginia

I know that I am a few days late to this conversation, but it IS on the “most popular links” bar.

In my opinion, real estate will be flat to negative for the foreseeable future. The recent runups were only supported by temporarily low interest rates and the issuance of suicide loans by lenders who simply sold these loans, either to Fannie Mae or to Wall Street as “mortgage-backed securities”.

Fannie Mae has stopped buying these loans and are forcing buy-backs of many. Wall Street is filing lawsuits over fraudulent applications and wants nothing to do with these toxic securities any longer. The currently sky-high prices are NOT supported by incomes and are, therefore, unsustainable. Your calculator was right, Flexo.

For more information on the real estate market, go to http://www.patrick.net.

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avatar Willster

Wow, this is very surprising! I always just assumed that I was paying a premium for my apartment renting, throwing my money away into a bottomless pit with no tangible return.

But for me it’s more about the hassle. I don’t really anticipate staying in one location for more than a few years at a time, nor do I really like the idea of being tied down to a specific area.

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avatar Jonathan C

Here are my two cents. I put together a little spreadsheet calculator, not totally unlike the billion that are out there. This one is specific to my income, and housing/renting market.

For background, I am an electrical engineer in central Iowa. We were never fortunate enough to be swept away in a real estate run-up in the past 10-15 years here, and there appears to be less of a softening in the market as a result. We’ve just seen very steady 4-5% average annual appreciation per year, including 2006. The latest Story County assesor’s news release reported an average of 10% increase in assessed residential properties, but I think that is a bit high.

The Iowa median home value is $76,346–well below the national level of $136,625. Median income is $38k. We have a lower-than average unemployment rate of 3.9%, versus the national average of 5.7%–so there are more per capita “potential” homeowners.

Spreadsheet Setup: A month-to-month balance sheet showing total assets and liabilities.

Constants: Our “effective” property tax rate is about 1.75% on a large 4-bedroom home for which we paid
$185,000. We have two children and a 3rd on the way, so this size makes sense. We have a 15-year fixed-rate loan at 5% for 80% of the value of the home, we pitched in the 20% down payment. We also budget $41/month per month in home insurance and $50/month for miscellaneous maintenance costs that do not add value to the home. It is a new construction, so this is a pretty reasonable assumption. We don’t factor in any income tax benefit from mortgage interest. For the rental scenario, which requires less month-to-month cash outflow, any additional cash up to the total outflow from the mortgage scenario is assumed to accrue 5% interest. Conservative, but safe.

Variables: The only variables are the rent payment and home appreciation rate.

My “Personal” Break-Even Point Results: I thought a table would best consolidate the data for each scenario. These results, if nothing more, emphasize that homeownership should be for the longer-term.

Break-Even Year Rent Apprec. Rate
2 $1500 4%
5 $1350 4%
10 $1200 4%
2 $1750 2%
5 $1650 2%
10 $1500 2%
2 $1150 6%
5 $1025 6%
10 $825 6%

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avatar Jonathan C

I thought I’d also throw in what typical rents are in my area. Singles can get by really easily for $300-$600 per month for a room according to the Ames Tribune classifieds. But for a family, renting a home or 4-bedroom apartment ranges from $850-$1500.

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avatar Jonathan C

Argh. In my first post, that should be read

Break-Even Year/Rent/Apprec. Rate

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avatar Felicia

Try using rentjungle.com – there’s a rent calculator that tells you the average rent for a particular area.

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