When you’re just starting out, renting lets you move in and get on with life a lot quicker and easier. But as you settle into a career and have a better idea of where you want to put down roots, home ownership may start to become an appealing option. It’s knowing when you’re ready to buy a home that’s sometimes confusing.
What if you could have the best of both worlds, at least for a while? Renting a house is the next best thing to owning, and it's a great way to learn more about what home ownership is like before making the commitment. (Read: First Time Home Buyer Tips)
Renting a House Could Change Your Ideas About the Perfect Property
Old homes might look beautiful from the outside, but living in one can be a lesson in sacrifice. Rooms might be drafty and closet space limited. The heating system might conk out in the middle of winter, and the plumbing could leave a lot to be desired. When you live in an old house, you’ll learn that anything can go wrong at any time, and the lifestyle you’re used to might require some adjustment.
Newer construction has its own problems. There are fewer architectural details to make you swoon, and construction-grade carpeting might begin to wear out in a year. Newer homes have modern conveniences, but the trade-off is sometimes quality.
When you rent a house, you could learn what’s great, and not so great, about living in the kind of property you think you love. When you're ready to buy a home, a more ordinary but solid (original construction and maintenance) house might be a lot more appealing than it was before.
Before You Buy a Home, Learn What Outdoor Maintenance Involves
There’s not a lot that compares to the smell of fresh-cut grass. If you long to spend sunny days mowing and trimming, pulling weeds, and planting flowers, renting a house gives you that chance. You might also be tasked with other jobs, such as cleaning out the gutters and raking leaves.
Renters who have never had the responsibility of lawn care might be in for a big surprise. Mowing every Saturday can be fun, at least for a while. But there will almost certainly come a time when the dandelions are popping up and flower beds look messy, when you’d rather spend your day doing something else.
Renters are usually responsible for keeping grass mowed and landscaping tidy. Unless you want to hire a landscaping company and can afford it, you’ll quickly learn that owning a home requires you to sacrifice free time you’re used to enjoying elsewhere. You'll also be responsible for buying your own lawnmower, trimmer, and other tools, and keeping those in good working order. (Read: Are You Ready to Be a Home Owner?)
Rent a Home, and You’ll Learn What Homeownership is Like
A benefit of renting a house (and buying one) is the additional privacy you’ll gain. In apartment life, your neighbors are as close as the other side of the wall. You may share a parking area, common spaces mean and you’ll pass the same people on the steps, in hallways, on elevators, or on sidewalks nearly every day. Living in a single-family home also means you can turn up the stereo a little louder without worrying about a neighbor banging on the wall. And when it comes to sitting outside, your space is your own; you won’t have to share it with everyone else in the building.
Renting a house can be a great way to gain some of the benefits of buying a home, but without the long-term commitment. The primary differences are that you won’t get any financial security in the form of equity from making your monthly rent payments, and someone else has control over what you do with the property. On the upside, if the heating system stops working or the roof springs a leak, you won’t be responsible for the repair.
If you're not sure you're ready to buy a home, rent and experience home ownership up close. You'll quickly learn if you're ready to make the long-term commitment. It will also give you time to monitor the economics of home ownership. According to the Wall Street Journal, in The New Math of Renting vs Buying, there are some areas where the financials favor renting.
Has renting a house given you insight about what home ownership is like? We would love to hear about your experiences, and how they shaped your decision to buy or continue renting in the future.