When it comes to buying and renting 101 (whether that is for your own living arrangement or your business), I had to ask someone with more experience and wisdom on the matter. Her response was one that I felt to share with all of you.

This is a guest post from Marcia Bagnall, a mentor and friend of ours from the Chemeketa Small Business Development Center in Salem, OR.

So Marcia…Should I Buy Or Should I Rent?

“Thanks for letting me weigh in on the question of whether someone should buy or rent. It’s a common conundrum and one that millennials think about a lot as they pass the 30-year mark (#howdoIadult).

That question should always be looked at in the context of what makes the most financial sense for you in your current stage of life, and in the location you live…given the fact that you need housing of some kind.


So let’s back up and start with this - if you’re alive, chances are you need to pay for lodging.

Accommodation for you and your stuff. And there’s a cost associated with that.

Yes sure, you could couch surf or live in mom’s basement for free, or maybe camp under a bridge.

But practically speaking, your average adult in today’s society will pay for shelter of some kind. 

So if you start with that premise, the next question is, what makes the most sense for you at this point in your life and in the housing market where you currently live?

In other words, what’s the most efficient use of your dollar that also brings your lifestyle needs into play?

And of course, that’s not a simple question and it doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer.

(For extra fun, the answer for you will change over the years as your situation changes.)

Let’s start with the financial aspect of this question. Well, wait a second, I feel a rant coming on…

Can I just stand on my little soapbox here and lecture about the crap that people spout on this topic? You’ve heard them - the people who repeat old platitudes like that you’re throwing your money away on rent, or you should buy as much house as you can afford.

These “experts” don’t understand personal finance and shouldn’t be giving out advice. No matter how smart they are or how much education they have, your average person is a blithering idiot when it comes to applying their brain power to their bank accounts*.

“Most people suck at money,” …to quote Mr Money Mustache (…and here’s a link to a talk he gave this summer at the World Domination Summit in Portland: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2016/10/10/how-to-be-happy-rich-and-save-the-world/).

OK, rant over for now.

How about some actual math?

My favorite way to think about this is to use a calculator like this one from the NY Times.

Go to a site like Zillow.com to help you get property tax numbers and other costs of home ownership in your area as needed.

And then, just plug and play. Eye-opening, no?

Because for crying out loud, don’t get me started on just comparing the monthly rental on an apartment with the monthly mortgage payment on a house.

As if that’s the end of the story.

That’s no comparison at all.

Rent and utilities payments are pretty much all you’re going to pay to live in someone else’s property when you rent.

The costs are predictable and recur on a known schedule.

Not so much with a house!

Houses come with a big pile of expenses like property taxes and insurance, repairs, maintenance, landscaping, HOA dues, replacements, and if-it’s-not-one-thing-it’s-another.

These costs (plus the interest on the mortgage) may or may not be cheaper than a monthly rental payment.

And the idea that a house increases in value over time? Maybe. No guarantees.

Let’s move on to the more subjective issues in play here. The upside of renting is flexibility and lack of hassle (renters usually don’t maintain and repair things).

The downside is loss of control (the landlords can sell the place, they can raise rents, they can make other changes without consulting you).

The upside of property ownership is stability and control (you’re in charge here!) and the downside is that it’s harder to be nimble (you can’t just give a 30-day notice and move on whenever you feel like it).

Another downside is that you are at the whim of your local market and local economy, and if things go south, it is harder to sell when you might like to.

So which is the better choice?

Fact is, they’re both good and rational choices…depending on your situation.

Before you automatically choose one over the other, go back to the premise that you need to purchase shelter for yourself and should be doing so in a way that maximizes the effectiveness of your dollars and meets your lifestyle needs.

And if you need any additional help and live in Salem, Oregon, make sure to check out the Small Business Development Center. 😉

Marcia Bagnall

Marcia Bagnall

Director, Chemeketa Small Business Development Center, 626 High St NE, 2nd Floor, Salem, OR