PROPERTY IS POWER! Buying during the holiday season

by Anthony O. Kellum

If you’re a renter, you might find yourself considering whether you should buy a home instead especially when your lease is about to expire. But it’s not always as simple as paying rent versus paying a mortgage. When you’re thinking about making the leap to homeown­ership, consider some of the factors that might come into play. Of course, money will be a top consideration as you weigh your options. Be realistic about what you can afford. Home­ownership isn’t just about the cost of your base monthly mortgage payment.


Insurance and property taxes: Most peo­ple pay them as part of their monthly payment to their lender, and it’s important to have a realistic view of how much these fees will add to your total payment. Your real estate agent can help you estimate these expenses to get started, and your loan originator can give you a specific amount later in the process.

Maintenance and repairs: From paint­ing to replacing appliances, and from lawn care to changing your furnace filters, there’s a long and sometimes costly list of things you must do to keep your home in good condition. To protect yourself from surprise repair costs, HGTV recommends making sure you have 1-3 percent of your home’s cost saved for annual maintenance.

Utilities: Some new homeowners are shocked by the costs of all the utilities need­ed when you own a home such as electricity, gas, water, Internet and streaming services. If you’re used to some or all of these expenses being included in your rent, do some research to find out how much they’ll add to the total monthly costs of homeownership. Your local utility providers can often give you an esti­mate based on square footage. Both home and rental prices are escalating quickly right now. If your lease is expiring, evaluate your finan­cial situation carefully to find out if investing in a home makes sense.


No one can precisely predict the future, but the “buy or rent” decision must also focus on who will live there with you in the short- and long-term future. How will the number, age, and relationship of those who will live in the space affect what you need from it? Lease expi­ration often prompts these considerations.

Will someone else, such as a roommate or a partner, share the costs with you? Are those ar­rangements long-term, or likely to change from time to time? If being an empty nester is on the horizon, you might wish to have less space and less main­tenance to worry about, po­tentially making renting a better choice.

If you plan to add to your family, it’s wise to consider not only how much space you’ll need, but also how you’ll use it. Do you need more outdoor space or a larger kitchen: What about areas of your home for fam­ily members to spend time together?

Maintenance Skill

When you rent, there’s al­ways someone you can call to address any issues with your home. The cost and the trouble of maintenance are the responsibility of the property owner or proper­ty management company. When you own a property, however, you become re­sponsible for all mainte­nance. Are you handy? Do you feel confident in your ability to learn these skills? Learning to fix a toilet that won’t stop running, for ex­ample, is pretty easy with help of the right YouTube video, but what about big­ger tasks like masonry or HVAC work? DIY projects can save money, but you could also end up causing bigger, more expensive problems if your skills ar­en’t up to par. Be honest with yourself about your ability to handle or budget for maintenance issues.


While amenities offered in rentals versus owned property can vary widely based on your location and the amount you pay, figur­ing out the most important features to you is a key factor in your decision. If they aren’t deal breakers, they can sometimes break a tie as you choose to rent or buy.

Parking: Will a rental home or apartment be able to provide you with cov­ered parking or a garage or would you be forced to park on the street? How much parking space will you need now and in the future for you and those you live with? Depending on the area you’re looking in, parking can be compli­cated issue, or hard to find altogether.

Laundry: Do you need a dedicated laundry room, or are you comfortable sharing with your neigh­bors? Owning a home isn’t a guarantee of an onsite washer and dryer. Older buildings and urban areas sometimes don’t offer these features, while many rent­als in other areas do in­clude in-unit laundry.

Recreation space: Do you want a pool or work­out room? Do you want to shoulder the cost of having those on your own prop­erty, or would you rather rent or buy in a community that provided them? Many neighborhoods have ame­nities like playgrounds, pools, trails and sports courts, but beware: They often come with the addi­tional cost of a monthly or annual homeowner’s asso­ciation fee. Rentals often offer these amenities and include them in the cost of your lease payment.

As your lease draws near its expiration, the decision to renew, find a new rental, or buy a home can feel a bit overwhelming.


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