Buying vs. Renting: Conventional wisdom is that buying is better in the long run. But you have to commit to living in the same home for 5-10 years minimum (regardless of any life changes) to see a financial advantage. See the following approximation of buying or renting a $135,000 home for 6 years, given a 0% housing/renting market change (we do this because no one can predict the market):
- Buying: A 10% down payment and closing costs are $17,500. You have an $880 a month mortgage/tax/insurance or $63,360 over six years, but you can subtract a $7,200 tax credit. Add the cost of fixing/upgrading of $800 a year, or $4,800 over six years. After six years, you would have $25,930 in equity, but selling costs will leave you with $15,330. Total cost: $63,130.
- Renting: $950 a month rent and $10 for renters insurance, costs $69,120 over six years. During that time, you earned 2.5% interest on your $17,500, leaving you with $19,740 after taxes.Total cost: $49,380.
- Because the cost to buy/sell a house takes so long to recoup, buying is a long term commitment and potentially risky (if the market falls, you lose/change job, or repairs become too costly). If the market is rising 2% per year, six years would be the break-even point in this example. Buying a home is a better financial decision if you own for longer, the rental costs in your area are inflated, and/or the market is rising (no one can predict this). Both renting and buying are fine choices if you run the numbers or use the NY Times Calculator. For a more in depth review, see Khan Acadamy.
- Buying and 0% Down: Although it's tempting, it can be very risky. If you must sell your house within the first few years for any reason (loss of job, divorce, etc.), you may have to pay money just to sell your house. It is highly recommended that you have 20% (or at least 10%) of the home's worth, either for a down payment or kept in savings.
Finding a Rental: Use craigslist.com, Apartment Finder/Guide (online or at shopping centers), apartments.com, move.com, Trulia / Zillow, or local realty company. Read the lease!!! If you don't understand something, ask. Moving to a new city - try a cost of living calculator.
Movers: If you need help moving, call a moving company or a university that has students willing to help. Also, you can get free boxes from grocery stores and ABC stores.
Change Addresses: Credit Cards, Bank Accounts, Student Loans, Insurance Companies, Retirement Funds, Magazines/Newspapers, DMV (car regist. & license), Post Office, IRS, Cable/Satellite and Internet, Phone, Utilities.
Renters Insurance: At about $10 per month, it covers personal property inside the home, and often it covers lawsuits against you due to accidents, injury, or property damage.
Housing/Apartment Checklist: Visit during the day, night, and weekend to evaluate the following:
- Paint, Walls and Ceiling
- Water Damage (bathroom, kitchen, under sinks)
- Doors (do they open/close easily)
- Noise Level (mainly when you will be home)
- Windows, Screens and Blinds
- Security and Outside Lighting
- A/C and Heating
- Appliances and Garbage Disposal
- Water Pressure and how Hot/Cold it is
- Toilet Flushes Properly
- Cell Phone Reception
- Amenities (fitness room, pool, laundry, etc.)
- Location / Nearby Attractions
- Security Deposit
- Penalty for Breaking Lease
- Pet rules/deposit
- Commute during busy times
- Ask for average utility costs
- Ask neighbors what they think are the pros and cons of the area
- Cleanliness and upkeep of neighborhood