After several years of a slow housing market, buying is picking up. Housing prices have dropped significantly during the recent slowdown, and mortgage rates remain at historic lows, meaning that purchasing a house is more affordable than it has been in years.
However, if you're wondering, "Should I buy or rent?", it's important to realize that your housing costs will go beyond your monthly mortgage payment. As a renter, you don't need to worry about anything beyond your monthly rent, but owning a home comes with a wide range of financial obligations. As a homeowner, you'll be responsible for several costs. Things to Consider when Buying a House
- Property Taxes - As a homeowner, you are responsible for paying annual taxes on the property you own. Often, these taxes are bundled into your monthly mortgage payment and held in an escrow account, and the mortgage company pays them for you each year. If you choose to pay taxes this way, be prepared for your mortgage payment to be a little higher each month to cover taxes.
- Home Insurance - As a renter, you may have purchased renters insurance to cover the cost of your belongings inside the home, but as a homeowner, you must pay to insure your entire home from fire or other damages. If you live near water, you may be required to pay extra for flood insurance. This expense is also frequently included in your monthly mortgage payment and held in escrow until annual premiums are due.
- Ongoing Maintenance - When a homeowner wakes up to a broken water heater and a cold shower, you can't call the landlord or the maintenance department for help. You must find a plumber, pay the bill, and purchase a new water heater or parts or whatever is needed. As a homeowner, it's important to have a cash fund available for emergencies - you never know when you may need to fix a leaky faucet, a broken lawn mower or buy a new dishwasher.
- Utility Bills - Some landlords cover water and sewer bills, and others include cable or Internet access with a lease agreement. As a homeowner, you won't benefit from any such perks; you'll be responsible for paying all the monthly bills, including some that you might not even think of as a new homeowner:
º Gas or oil
º Trash pickup
º Landscaping and/or snow removal
If you are financially prepared for the costs associated with owning a home, it may be the best choice, as it will allow you to build equity that you can benefit from for years to come.
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