Millennials looking to make their next housing move face a tough decision: to rent as prices continue to soar, but with the flexibility to come and go; or to commit to the world of homeownership and all of its demands while interest rates are near historic lows. In recognition of American Housing Month, the American Bankers Association Foundation is highlighting six questions for millennials to consider when deciding to rent or buy.
“Millennials should weigh a number of factors before committing to any lease or mortgage,” said Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “With the cost of living continuing to rise, they must be prepared to handle the demands of their housing choice – whether that’s a rental property or homeownership.”
The ABA Foundation suggests considering the following questions when deciding whether to rent or buy:
1. How much money do you have saved up?
Start with an evaluation of your financial health. Figure out how much money you have for a down payment or deposit on a rental. Down payments are typically 5 to 20 percent of the price of the home. Security deposits on rentals are usually about one month of rent and more if you have a pet. But be sure to keep enough in savings for an emergency. It’s a good idea to have three to six months of living expenses to cover unexpected costs.
2. How much debt do you have?
Consider all of your current and expected financial obligations like your car payment and insurance, credit card debt and student loans. Make sure you will be able to make all the payments in addition to the cost of your new home. Aim to keep total rent or mortgage payments plus utilities to less than 25 to 30 percent of your gross monthly income. Recent regulatory changes limit debt to income (DTI) ratio on most mortgage loans to 43 percent.
3. How long will you stay?
Generally, the longer you plan to live someplace, the more it makes sense to buy. Over time, you can build equity in your home. On the other hand, renters have greater flexibility to move and fewer maintenance costs. Carefully consider your current life and work situation and think about how long you want to stay in your new home.
4. What is your credit score?
A high credit score indicates strong creditworthiness. Both renters and homebuyers can expect to have their credit history examined. A low credit score can keep you from qualifying for the rental you want or a low interest rate on your mortgage loan. If your credit score is low, you may want to delay moving into a new home and take steps to raise your score. For tips on improving your credit score, visit aba.com/consumers.
5. Have you factored in all the costs?
Create a hypothetical budget for your new home. Find the average cost of utilities in your area, factor in gas, electricity, water and cable. Find out if you will have to pay for parking or trash pickup. Consider the cost of yard maintenance and other basic maintenance costs like replacing the air filter every three months. If you are planning to buy a home, factor in real estate taxes, mortgage insurance and possibly a home owner association fee. Renters should consider the cost of rental insurance.
6. Location, location, location
That’s the adage most familiar to those interested in home buying, but renters also need to factor transportation costs into choosing where to live. Studies suggest for every dollar a family saves on housing in an area that is more affordable, they spend 77 cents more in transportation. Think carefully about your commute and how much household income will be required to meet both housing and transportation costs.
For more information on American Housing Month, visit aba.com/housing.
The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of ZB, N.A.
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