He Said/She Said: Buy or Rent

It’s bitten us. We’ve lived in Alabama for less than seven months and we’re already itching to move. Actually, we’re being forced to move but whether it’s by force or choice we’re leaving in five months and that means we’ve got to find some place else to live. Where?

We don’t know. We may not even know until the end of March. Two more months of not knowing, which is actually eternity for an impatient person like me. We’ve got an inkling though and we’re guessing we’re moving to a really big city that most people like to call our nation’s capital. This time we’ll even get to unpack all of our boxes (!) because we’ll definitely be there for over a year…maybe even four!

Now, the dilemma that we’re facing is what type of housing do we get? Actually we’re facing about eleventy-two dilemmas because there are so many options in an area that big. For instance:

  • Do we live closer to the city and sacrifice space but gain quick access to everything?
  • Do we live farther out in a suburb, which means more space, but less time spent in the city?
  • Do we go with a house, townhouse or condo (which would have utilities covered in the monthly fee and also would provide free access to indoor pools, fitness rooms, etc)?
  • Do we live north of the city or south of the city? Living right in the city is pretty much out of our price range, unless we want to experience drive-bys every night.

There are pros and cons for each one and we haven’t been able to determine which option/s outweigh the others.

Here’s our question we’re asking you though? Do we buy or rent? No matter what type of structure we decide to live in (home, townhouse or condo) we’ll have the option of buying or renting.

He says buy. We’ll most likely be there for more than two years. Buying a house is always an investment. It’s great to own a house. The interest rates are at an all time low so we could get a really good deal on a mortgage.

She says rent. What if we’re only there two years? Take a look at housing prices over the last couple of years…we could have a sinking ship instead of a house on our hands. What if we buy in the wrong neighborhood because we’re outsiders and know nothing about the good areas and then we aren’t able to sell it and then nobody else wants to rent it because the rent’s too high to cover our mortgage which is overinflated and then we’re stuck with paying the mortgage on a house we’re not living in while the weeds grow, the paint chips and the mice move in? And owning is so expensive when you add in all the extra costs.

So, what do you think? Buy or rent? Go ahead, be honest. Oh wait, I’m talking to the readers who hung me out to dry for our last S/He Said (remember, the mugs? I can never forget). Of course you’ll be honest.

P.S. Nicole, notice I wrote nothing about fixing anything up. The only way I’ll do that is if you move in next door and we tackle a fixer upper together.

P.S.S. This entry is shorter than I would have liked. Last time I had the arguments, then the rebuttals then the closing statements…or something like that. But this time I’m toggling between windows: I’m writing this post as I’m searching the MLS listings, searching rental listings, studying the metro map, studying google maps…

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20 thoughts on “He Said/She Said: Buy or Rent

  1. I’m not going to be much help because I see both sides SO clearly. (And I’m laughing at your reference — or lack thereof — to a fixer-upper, and your condition for accepting one. Let’s just say I ain’t movin’ to D.C.)

    While ordinarily I would say BUY because you might as well have some investment awaiting you at the end of your tenure, these are not ordinary times. In fact, I just read a few days ago that the bottom has yet to fall out of the housing market as there’s a whole round of foreclosures that haven’t even hit yet. And it could be AT LEAST two to three years before it begins to get better.

    And, I would say BUY anyway, EXCEPT you are not in it for the long-haul. If you DO have to leave in two years, I’d be worried that you would end up with the sinking ship you described. On the plus side, it’s D.C. People are always comin’ and goin’ in that part of the country.

    So, my unqualified advice for this dilemma would be to rent. If you were planning to settle there (like for 5-10 years minimum) I’d advise to buy.

  2. I am not sure about the buying/selling. I really don’t know what it is like in the states right now. But I can definitely say how much I love Northern Va and used to live there, I went to George Mason. I have a great church that I can recommend and some great friends to introduce you to! I go there every time I come back on furlough. But it is ridiculously expensive. And as for the city, I tend to believe that unless you live IN the city, you won’t go to the city. Now, in college I went to dc all the time, it was fun, but it was also at night and on weekends when there wasn’t much traffic.

    Not sure if that helped, but I can at least hook you up with some nice people and a great church.

  3. dandelionmom says:

    I have been stuck after moving across country and falling for the “please don’t list-we definately want to buy!” Then we were ummm….can’t find a euphemism for what they did to us once they knew we were over a barrel and HAD to ditch the house. It is especially bad if you have no family in the area to watch the house for you when you try to sell. But in a big area with a lot of turn-over it souldn’t be as hard to resell if you aren’t looking to triple your money.

    Buy or rent? I say YES! Don’t buy for the purpose of investing…it will turn you into a shreww when the kids get out crayons and sully your investment…and don’t rent just because you won’t be there forever-and it will turn you into a shreww when the kids get out their crayons and you imagine your security deposit flying away…find your HOME and when it feels like it’s right-do THAT!

    I lean for as far away from neighbors as possible–people are great but they are just SOOO…SOOO…human sometimes!

  4. i’m with you this time, vicki. just too many unknowns right now, i’d say. i am quite the opposite of a gambler.

    if ever there was a great place for your family, that sure does sound like it, you culture/museum/event psycho. the closer to the city the better. who needs space? ashlyn will find you and climb your head regardless of your square footage.

  5. Well… I’d move closer to town. But, since I literally lived IN town when I loved there, I’m probably not much help. A townhouse or condo would be much less upkeep, if you decide to buy. This is a good time to buy. I’m not sure if the bottom has fallen out, or not. I imagine that if the economy doesn’t turn around, it might not have. But, you can never be sure that your house will be worth less when you move out than when you moved in. Buy something that you can AFFORD, and if you have to move before you’re ready to sell, you might be able to rent it out. Just be sure it is an affordable house!!!!!!!!!

  6. Rent! Unless you find a screaming deal. YOu cannot beat the bang for your buck from renting. You would pay considerable more to own.

    In our market here, the foreclosures are just now starting to come onto the market, and so homeowners are still trying to get top dollar in a market that has deflated. If you have the ability to wait, that’s what I’d suggest, or find your perfect rental, and make it home!

  7. I hate to say this but it depends on where Du will be working. If at all possible, you want him to be able to use public tranportation. I personally am not a fan of the NoVA suburbs enough that I would want to own a house there. I like some of the older Maryland neighborhoods though. I’ll email you with more stuff.

  8. Geez, Vicki. This is a hard one. I have no idea. I always say BUY, too, but it seems you have a lot of conditions that make the answer not so obvious. Just make a list of the positives and negatives of both and then see which route you think would be best. Although I do agree with Kristina, if you have to move and can’t sell a house you could always rent it out to cover your costs. I would imagine D.C. is a good market for rentals. You just have to deal with all the rental crap. That would suck but at least you could hold onto it a little while longer while the market picks back up. I would lean towards Buy. Yes… that is my decision. Haha!

    BTW – I left an award for you over at my place on Friday 🙂

  9. I used to live in DC-both the city and the suburbs. You’re one lucky gal, is all I have to say! Fairfax County has the best schools, and the easiest commute to the Pentagon. Are you military? The farther out you live, the less expensive the housing, but the longer the commute, ’cause the traffic is so God Awful Horrible! And whether you choose a house or a townhouse, the resale value in Fairfax, at least, is still pretty good, considering the economy…

    BTW, Uncle Lynn decided to join the Bloggy Giveaway Carnival, so we’re having an impromptu Pop’rs Giveaway this week!

  10. I live in Baltimore (a hop, skip and a jump away from DC). I would recommend going north into Maryland. Don’t live in the city, the prices will kill you, whether you rent or buy. If it were me, I would buy a house in Rockville/Gaithersburg or Laurel/Columbia, both areas have easy public transit access to downtown and have great schools. I would say it depends on where you work, though. DC has terrible traffic, so getting closer to work, even if you plan to take the metro, is always better.

  11. I can’t say anything one way or another about where to live…. we were very close to moving that way ourselves just a year ago, but it fell through before it got to where we were needing to look for a place to live. I have heard good things about Fairfax County in VA, but also heard good things about living on the Maryland side of DC as well. As for buying or renting… I would suggest renting if you are unsure about how long you’re going to be there. Yes, buying a house is a good investment, but if there is any uncertainty as to how long you’re going to be there I wouldn’t do it. It just doesn’t make any sense, especially with the economy the way it is, to buy a house and then have something happen and have to turn around and try to sell it right away.

  12. My vote is to rent, unless you are in the mood to buy an investment property that you plan on holding on to regardless for years to come. As a previous commenter mentioned, people are always coming and going in DC. This is probably the cheapest you will ever be able to purchase a home in the city – so if you plan on hanging on to it through the turbulent market right now, you would surely make a nice sum in several years.

    Good luck!

  13. Whenever I move to an unfamiliar area I rent for a little while just to get a lay of the land. It’s far too risky to jump in and buy and then find out 6 months later that you’re in the wrong spot.

  14. I’m not sure what the market is like in DC, but I think it’s still decent. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t buy…you can’t guarantee that it’d rebound before you need to sell.

    But yay if it IS DC! There are several other people I’ve been wanting to visit there…so maybe we can meet up (it’s only 4 or 5 hours from here).

  15. The golden number is three years. More than three years, buy. Under, rent. At least in the US! Good luck with everything. Moving always takes so much out of you. At least there will be plenty of adventure in your new home.
    Katie

  16. oh i am jealous…i would love to move around like that..not knowing where and just live here and there..im sure it gets old…but still would love to do it and explore new places….i say rent…so hard now a days to sell a house..you might get stuck with a house you no longer need when you have to move again…good luck on the decision!!

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