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Better to Rent or Buy?

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Posted On: 04/27/2011

QUESTION:

Given real estate values and marketplace uncertainty isn't it better to rent than to buy?

ANSWER:

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This question arises with increasing frequency. To provide a sure answer is to claim knowledge of the future, something that can't be done. What can be done is to consider what we do know:

First, there's no single or simple answer. What's true in one market may not be true in another.

Second, people have to live somewhere. While the population is growing there's relatively little new home construction and we see changing housing patterns. Increasingly adult children are moving back in with Mom and Dad after graduating college and the formation of new families is being delayed.

Third, if the argument is that renting is now a better option than owning, does that also mean now is a better time to be a real estate investor because of rising rental demand? Reis, Inc. reports for the first half of 2010 that apartment vacancies fell.

For specifics regarding population, job and vacancy trends in your market speak with local real estate brokers and community development offices.

QUESTION:

Our usual property tax is about $4,000 a year. Our lender's year-end 1098 form says we only paid $2,000 but local records show the tax was fully paid. Where's the rest?

ANSWER:

Most likely you refinanced toward the end of the year and a semi-annual tax payment was made at closing. Check your HUD-1 from closing for the missing payment and also if prepaid interest or points were paid. Speak with a tax professional for specifics.

QUESTION:

What can we do if a tenant check bounces? Twice?

ANSWER:

You have provided goods and services (use of the property) and are entitled to payment. You could seek criminal charges and an eviction, but that does not enhance your bank account. Ask if the tenants can get help from a family member or charity, or if the missing money can be repaid over time.

Peter G. Miller is the author of The Common-Sense Mortgage and a veteran real estate columnist. Have a question? Please write to peter@ctwfeatures.com.

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