Rent VS Buy What Can You Afford?

By Carla Olivo, PCSgrades Director of Strategic Communications

It’s often said that buying a home is the largest purchase most people will ever make. For military families who typically move every couple of years, the thought of making such a huge purchase and having to leave only a few years into home-ownership can be intimidating. There is a lot to consider. The following is a great start as you deliberate whether buying or renting is for you.

There is no “right” or “wrong” answer to the Rent Vs Buy question. A military family who is on the move may choose to rent since they are not sure when orders will come. Another mil family might choose to purchase if they are in the right place financially and the local area is a buyers’ market. A veteran family nearing their “final” retirement may choose to downsize and become renters again.

Upfront Costs of Renting

Security Deposit – A Security Deposit of one or two month’s rent is usually required by a landlord. This is to insure against property damage, a broken lease, or a late rent payment.

First Month’s Rent – Many landlords require the first month’s rent upfront.

Nonrefundable Deposits – These deposits, often referred to as pet deposits, typically range from$100 to $500.

Recurring Costs of Renting

Monthly Rent – This is the payment due to your landlord or Property Management Company each month.

Renters Insurance – While renters insurance is not required, it is highly recommended to protect against loss due to fire or theft. The cost is based on the value and quantity of your household goods, other valuables, and your deductible among other factors. The folks at Armed Forces Insurance can help you to determine how much coverage you need.

Utilities – Utilities may be included in the monthly rent. If that is not the case, the renter is responsible for payment which varies depending on personal use and choices.

Laundry – Many rentals don’t have in-unit laundry machines, so money will need to be set aside on a weekly or monthly basis.

Pet Rent – In addition to a Pet Deposit, some landlords will charge monthly rent for your pet.

Upfront Costs of Owning Your Home

Earnest Money – In some areas where potential buyers might compete to own property, it might make sense to offer Earnest Money, 1% to 3% of the home’s purchase price. After accepting the offer, the seller would deposit this money into an escrow account to be credited against your closing costs.

Down Payment – Ashleigh Vasi a REALTOR with the Incorvaia Team of Keller Williams says, “Your down payment amount will vary depending on your credit rating, the local market, and the type of mortgage loan you’re approved for.” If you are using a VA Home Loan, you may be able to forgo a down payment.

Home Inspection – An inspection by a licensed home inspector is almost always a condition of loan approval. Home Inspectors look for potential problems and defects that might not be apparent to an inexperienced buyer. The cost is typically $300 to $500.

Home Appraisal – William Lawson from First Guaranty Mortgage Corporation says, “Lenders require an appraisal before approving the loan to ensure that the offer price matches the actual value of the home.” Appraisal costs typically run $300 to $500.

Property TaxesProperty taxes are usually paid up front, many times in six-month increments. Buyers will need to pay the seller for taxes already paid on the period between the closing date and the end of the current tax period.

Closing Costs – This expense varies widely, usually ranging from 2% to 4% of the purchase price. It can include a certification fee, lender’s and owner’s title insurance, state and local transfer taxes, recording taxes, first month’s mortgage interest, and closing fee. You can ask your Realtor about approaching the seller to share some or all of your closing costs.

Recurring Costs of Owning Your Home

There are several recurring costs that come with home-ownership. Some of these costs may be included in the escrow payment made to your lender each month, while other expenses are paid separately.

Loan Payments – Principal and interest payments are paid each month for the life of your mortgage loan, which is usually for a 15 or 30 year period. Lawson says, “The loan payment for a fixed-rate mortgage remains constant for the full term of repayment. For an adjustable-rate mortgage, the rate is tied to a benchmark. The payment varies as the benchmark changes.” The loan payment is included in your monthly escrow payment.

Property Taxes – Your local city or county sets the property taxes which help pay for schools, infrastructure, and other critical services such as fire departments. The rates will vary widely depending on where you live and sometimes change from year to year. One-twelfth of your annual tax burden is due each month as part of your monthly escrow payment. Some states and counties forgive property taxes for veterans with a 100% disability rating.

Check out what your fellow military families have to say about base housing, local neighborhoods, and REALTORS at

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