5 Common Myths About Renting vs. Buying a Home
Nearly everything in life is subjected to judgment at one time or another, but who would’ve thought that how you put a roof over your head could as well?
I’m talking about homeownership vs. renting.
Rentals (and the people who inhabit them) can receive some dirty looks. Both owning or renting a home have long lists of pros and cons, but the cons of renting seem vocalized just a little more—the argument a little heavy-sided. So let’s talk about some of the myths we’ve heard at one point or another about renting, and (hopefully) open up a more realistic discussion and provide an educated perspective to help decide which is right for you.
5 Myths About Renting You Didn’t Know You Believed
Myth #1: It’s a waste of money.
I’ve heard it. You’ve heard it. One of the biggest criticisms of renting is the lack of opportunity to invest. When you buy a home, your monthly mortgage payments go toward the overall cost of the home. Then, one day you own the property and even a little equity. When it’s time to sell, you watch the market and list it when you’re most likely to make money. Or, maybe you rent it out. Regardless, everyone knows that owning real estate can be a great investment!
Rentals, on the other hand, aren’t considered long-term investments. But that doesn’t mean that renting is always a bad thing. While it’s usually a good idea to invest in your future, owning a home isn’t always the answer.
Renting allows far more flexibility and freedom. You don’t have to worry about the market or paying back a home loan. And when you're a military family and it’s time to move, it’s not your responsibility to hire a real estate professional, get the property show ready, and find a renter or buyer.
When you’re active duty military dealing with PCS moves every few years, a rental and the smaller responsibility associated with it can be pretty attractive. Plus, there’s more to think about than simply how long you’ll be stationed at a particular duty station that will help determine if a rental is your best move.
Let’s say you’re eager to “not waste money” so instead of renting a home, you decide to buy one. You figured that since you’ll be there for a few years that it’s worth the investment. But if you don't take into consideration the market, location, and resale value/rentability, you may find yourself in a poor investment.
Buying a home isn’t for everyone, especially military families on the move. If you need help in making the decision, start with Buy or Rent a Home? 5 Strategies for Military Families Making the Decision.
Myth #2: Rental terms are non-negotiable.
Rental prices and terms aren’t necessarily set in stone. While negotiating has a more apparent role in a home sale, rental agreements have a decent amount of leeway— especially if it’s a renters' market.
If there are more rentals than renters in the area, you’ll likely be able to negotiate the rental price and other terms like the length of the lease, pet policy, pet deposits, etc. With the comfort of a stable job in the military and the ability to move in right away, most landlords will be eager to compromise in order to get their empty property filled as quickly as possible.
And even if the market isn’t booming with rentals, it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask. The worst that can happen is they say no!
For more about understanding what questions to ask a potential landlord, read 7 Questions to Ask a Landlord Before Signing a Lease.
Myth #3: Landlords are responsible for all repairs and maintenance.
They care for and solve many problems that surface around the property, but landlords aren’t responsible for everything around the home.
Nolo shares that “your landlord is responsible for keeping your rental unit in a livable condition, though many renters often feel stuck with less-than-ideal living conditions...Purely cosmetic repairs are not legally required. Mildewed grout or worn carpet, for example, are less likely to require a landlord's attention than are loose tiles that make the shower unusable or holes in carpeting that could trip someone.”
Simply because you’re not the homeowner doesn’t mean that you can’t change out a light bulb, replace dead batteries, clean the washer and dryer, or unclog a drain. These petty tasks are all results of normal wear and tear, don’t pose a more concerning problem, and are generally your responsibility to fix.
In order to foster a healthy relationship with your landlord, you won’t want to call for small things. However, you should keep your line of communication open. And if something of greater concern arises, you’ll certainly want to give a courtesy call, even if it’s something you can resolve yourself. Since the home is their investment, issues like a broken window, problems with the plumbing, or water leaks are all things they’ll want to know.
Not sure if your repair warrants a call to the landlord? Check out Which Repairs Are NOT Your Landlord’s Responsibility?
Myth #4: Landlords can come and go as they please.
Privacy is a big concern when it comes to renting. Since they own the property, one might think that landlords reserve the right to enter at any time. Not true. While it’s within reason for them to check on the property from time to time, most states require that landlords provide at least 24 hours' notice prior to entry unless there is an emergency.
Take note: State laws vary. While most suggest landlords give notice, some don’t. Be sure to read about your state’s tenants rights.
Myth #5: Your landlord can't sell the house.
Your landlord can sell the house even while you're living in it—which sounds scary. But let's think about it from the landlord's perspective. Given a sellers' market or other reasons, they might want to sell the home.
Fortunately, (for them) they have the right to sell. But don’t worry, they can't evict you in order to sell the house. If you have a month-to-month lease, they can terminate the agreement without explanation, but they’re still required to give you 30-60 days notice, depending on the state laws where you live.
If you have a fixed-term lease, then the landlord can’t break the agreement in order to sell. However, they may ask you to keep the house show ready or cooperate for inspections. And, while that can be inconvenient (especially if you’re not wanting to move), it's their right. Most states allow landlords to show the home during reasonable business hours with a 24-hour given notice.
Renting Might Be the Right Path for You If:
You don’t want added debt. Homeownership is a huge financial responsibility. You simply might not be able to afford to buy a home right now. Even though a bank may pre-approve you for a loan, only you know if you can maintain mortgage payments, homeowners insurance, and the cost of maintaining the property.
Beyond the generic expenses every homeowner faces, military homeowners have a whole other component to consider, “What happens when we move?” In an ideal world, you’d sell right away and make money in an awesome sellers’ market or have a line of tenants ready to move in. But that’s not a guarantee. So it’s important to consider whether or not you can continue to afford a mortgage in your current location if you receive PCS orders elsewhere and your home sits vacant.
The location is crummy. Not every duty station is a gold mine of real estate property. While some locations have frequent turnover of military service members, nearly guaranteeing a never-ending pool of potential tenants, others do not. Finding a rental might be the best decision if the location doesn’t offer homes with great resale value or rentability.
You want to keep things simple. Owning a home can be messy. It’s different than renting in many ways. But mostly, when you’re done and ready to move on, you can easily part ways with your rental. But with a property that you own, you’re responsible to decide whether you want to sell or rent it. And once you figure that out, you then have to do all the steps in between to get the home ready and find a tenant or buyer.
All of that said, renting isn’t the right option for every family. It’s important to understand the realities of both renting and buying a home so that you can make the best decision whether you’re judged for it or not!
Ready to find your next rental? Head to MilitaryByOwner to search for the perfect rental near your duty station today!