Should I Move Into a House Or An Apartment?

There are many factors that will contribute to deciding whether you should move into a house or an apartment. One of them, of course, is money, and as housing prices have risen at a rapid or even torrid pace in many locations, the monetary differences between renting and purchasing a property have become blurred. We will first discuss some more traditional reasons to buy versus own, and later, we will analyze the monetary advantages or disadvantages.


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Control

If you buy a home, you have control, even if it’s a first-time home purchase. It’s still yours. You can remodel what you want, you can have a nice yard or an ugly one, you can paint the interior walls purple or black, and you can have as many pets as local ordinances allow. No landlord is ever going to come to your residence and inspect the premises, and if you make your payments on time, pay your taxes, don’t do anything illegal in your home, and don’t upset the neighbors, chances are no one is going to bother you.

control of a house
One advantage of home ownership is that you have control of style, renovations, and selling.

If you are renting an apartment, for example, a 1-bedroom place in an expensive city like Houston, Texas where rent is on the rise, you have to adhere to your lease, and you probably have to get permission from your landlord before you do any painting or major decorating. If you want a pet and you live in a pets-prohibited complex, you better get a stuffed one. There may be limits to the number of guests you can have in your place at one time, and you may only have limited parking. If you like to throw parties, you will have to be careful to control the noise level as your fellow apartment dwellers may complain to the landlord, or even call the police if they are unhappy.

Leases also come with rules and regulations that can sometimes be changed at the whim of the landlord and without your permission. You had two parking spots? A rule change could cut that down to one. Smoking was allowed in the outside common areas? That could be quickly prohibited. Many landlords use ever-changing rules and regulations as a control method.

These control issues seem major, so why would anyone want to live in an apartment rather than a home?

Maintenance

If something breaks in the home you have purchased, you need to fix it or get someone to do it. We all have heard of someone that buys a house in the middle of summer, and the next day the AC breaks. Some get lucky and it turns out to be a minor issue, but others have to replace components or the entire system, and that can cost $10,000 or more.

If the AC doesn’t stops working in your apartment, merely pick up the phone and call the landlord, as it is totally their responsibility to repair it. The same goes with appliances, toilets and even light fixtures. Your lease may require that you replace bulbs at your expense, but any electrical issues beyond that will fall to the landlord.

The Yard

Some of us love to cut the grass, fertilize it, dig new flower beds and attempt to have the best yard on the block; owning a home gives us the place to do this. Others simply do not want to deal with the outside. If it snows, they want someone else to shovel it, and they don’t want to do any landscaping. An apartment is perfect here because the residence owner is responsible for all landscaping activities.

Lease Versus Mortgage

If you have a mortgage and make all of your payments on time, no one can arbitrarily tell you to move. You can stay in your home as long as you wish. If you have an apartment, you are either controlled by a formal lease, or an

lease expires
A downside of renting is that when you’re lease expires your landlord can ask you to leave (even if you made all your payments).

informal month-to-month arrangement. If you are month-to-month, the landlord can demand that you vacate as early as 30 days from their notice. (Please note that local regulations need to be followed.) If you have a lease, it usually has a hard ending date, and even if renewal is possible, your landlord will have to agree.

Both Ways

This does work both ways, however, because if you are on a month-to-month basis, you can also leave by giving proper notice. If your lease ends, you are free to move elsewhere. If you own your home, of course you can move whenever you want to, but it would be necessary to sell your home or make simultaneous payments on it and your new residence. Of course, you could rent it to someone else, and then you are the landlord.

As Housing Costs Rise

As housing costs rise, property taxes become more significant. In Austin, TX, property taxes cost approximately an annual 2.2 percent of the property’s assessed value. For simplicity’s sake, if you have a $400,000 home, your yearly property taxes could be $8800 per year. This translates to approximately $733 per month. Add that to a $2500 mortgage, and you have a hefty monthly payment.

Even if you have the cash to buy a two-million-dollar home in Austin, your yearly taxes could be $44,000 per year or a whopping $3666 per month. In this case, you could probably rent a decent-sized home for $3500 per month, and the cost of taxes v. the cost of rent would be close to the same. Some think that the more expensive a home, the better it might be to rent instead of buy. Why pay over $3500 per month for the privilege of being responsible for taxes plus maintenance? In some cases, it is actually  cheaper to rent. Darren Bloomquist recently said this in a MarketWatch article:

“The buy-versus-rent calculus is shifting toward renting being more affordable. With a strong jobs market (people may) want to stay mobile and often can’t afford to buy near urban centers where they’re more likely to get a job and a job at higher wages.”

Rent verus buy is an age-old riddle, and each situation is different. We have seen a trend toward renting, however, as some are starting to just look at housing costs as just a percentage of their paychecks, and if they are able to reduce that cost by renting, the benefits of home ownership don’t seem to matter.


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