Great question! In fact, it’s one I often answer for potential home buyers. And my answer usually comes down to this: It depends on you--your situation and your goals for the future.

Here are some questions you need to ask yourself: Do you think you’re ready to move into the world of homeownership? Does your job require you to relocate frequently? Are you ready to “settle down” and raise a family? Not sure what you want to do yet?

As a real estate professional, I do know that buying a home has real advantages in today’s market: Realtor.com reports that housing affordability is the best it’s been in nearly 30 years. Right now buyers can cash in on hefty price drops and rock-bottom mortgage interest rates--and many people don’t realize just how great the market is!

If you still need some help on making your decision on if you should continue to rent or make the plunge to buy, the Our Family Place Home Buyer’s Information Center lists some of the pros and cons noted below, and I’ve added some of my own:

Buying Advantages:

* You gain equity in your home through mortgage payments.
* Your home could be one of the best long-term investments you will ever make.
* You can decorate and remodel the way you want.
* You get homeowner tax breaks.
* You build your credit standing.
* You can improve your property using home equity loans.
* You gain independence and pride as a homeowner.
* You can transfer your property through your will.

Buying Disadvantages:

* Your costs are variable.
* Your equity may change due to market conditions.
* You usually must sell your home to move.
* You handle maintenance and upkeep.
* You usually need more cash to get in.

Renting Advantages:

* Your costs are fixed for the term of your rental.
* You don’t lose equity.
* You can move at the end of your lease term.
* You have fewer maintenance worries.
* You need less cash to get in.

Renting Disadvantages:

* You never get equity.
* You can’t always decorate or remodel the way you want.
* You don’t get any tax breaks.
* Your lease is for a limited time period determined by your landlord.
* Your rent may go up at the end of your lease and other terms may change.
* Your landlord may not fix problems or invest in routine property maintenance.
* You normally can’t transfer your lease without the landlord’s OK.
* You may face eviction if you and your landlord have a dispute.

That’s a lot to think about. To put these pros and cons into dollar terms, try out this rent v. buy calculator offered by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Insurance Corporation (better known as Freddie Mac). Don’t be shy--check out different scenarios and see what they mean for your finances.

Yes, there are lots of variables to consider, and you’ll need to do your homework to decide what’s right for you. Working with a qualified real estate professional who can provide current market advice for your area can help.

I’m always ready to assist potential buyers debating the “rent v. buy” decision. Feel free to contact me and I’ll be happy to discuss your specific needs or answer any questions you might have about any aspect of real estate.

Image courtesy of NCinDC/Flickr.com