For decades, it was drilled into the heads of many Americans that renting makes you a second-class citizen. You only rent temporarily until you can move up in the world and achieve the American dream by purchasing a home -- but those days may be behind us.
About three in five adults believe renters can be just as successful as homeowners at achieving the American Dream, and more than half believe buying a home has become less appealing in recent years, according to a 2013 survey of more than 1,400 people by research firm Hart Research Associates.
While owning a home may be an aspiration for many Americans, it's often just less expensive and more convenient to be a renter. Here are 10 examples:
1. You spend less on utilities. You still need to pay for utilities when you rent, but chances are, your utility bills would be higher if you owned a home. First, a larger space uses more energy, so you can expect your heating and cooling costs to increase. You may also have to pay for watering your yard, upkeep of a pool or utility bills that were previously included in your rent, such as water, trash or association fees, if you live in a subdivision or condominium.
2. You're not responsible for maintenance or repairs. Homeowners are responsible for all repairs -- maintenance and renovation -- and depending on what needs to be fixed, these out-of-pocket costs can be astronomical. As a renter, you can leave the maintenance and repairs, as well as the associated financial responsibility, to your landlord.
3. You don't have to pay property taxes. Homeowners are required to pay property taxes, which can be passed by counties, cities and even school districts, so exactly how much you would pay depends on where you live. For example, the median property tax in New Jersey is $6,579 per year for a home worth $348,300, while the median property tax in Louisiana is $243 per year for a home worth $135,400, according to Tax-Rates.org. Regardless of the amount, that's an expense renters avoid completely.
4. You're likely to have less debt. Between student loans, credit cards and car loans, many Americans are already in debt before introducing a mortgage to the mix. In fact, Debt.org reports that more than 160 million Americans have credit cards, and on average, each household carries more than $15,000 in credit card debt. On top of that, NerdWallet reports that the average household has more than $154,000 in mortgage debt. Take a house out of the equation, and you don't have to worry about that mortgage debt.
5. Renters insurance is less expensive than homeowners insurance. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average annual home insurance premium ranges from about $600 in Wisconsin to nearly $2,000 in Florida. On the other hand, the institute says a renters insurance policy averages only $187 per year.
6. You have more freedom and mobility. Got a job offer in a new city? Just need a change of scenery? Renting gives you that flexibility. Americans tend to be mobile, and unless home prices are rising steeply, it usually doesn't make financial sense to sell a home a few years after buying it. As a renter, packing up and moving is a much easier process.
7. You can live in a better neighborhood. Perhaps you can't afford to own a home in your dream neighborhood -- the one with the best restaurants or the one with the best school district -- but it may be attainable if you rent. If living in a certain neighborhood suits your lifestyle, moving away just so you can afford to purchase a home may leave you feeling unsatisfied on a day-to-day basis. It could also increase your commuting costs.
8. You'll be more financially stable. While purchasing property can be an investment and home prices can appreciate, a mortgage can also dig you into a deep hole. The real estate market is unpredictable, and there are no guarantees. If you put all your savings into purchasing a home, you could be jeopardizing your long-term financial needs -- especially if you're on a tight budget to pay your mortgage.
9. You can enjoy modern amenities and luxuries. When you purchase a home, you may not be able to afford a pool in the backyard or replace those old kitchen appliances. Depending on the apartment complex, renters can enjoy amenities that would be huge expenses to a homeowner -- like brand new carpet, a fitness center or central air.
10. It's easier to redecorate. Renting your home means you can't make any major changes -- like painting or knocking down walls -- but it also means you can change your décor more often. With removable wallpaper and wall decals, you can easily update the look of your home as styles change. While owning a home means you can paint and remodel, you're in for a lot of time and redecorating effort if you outgrow that red accent wall.
Niccole Schreck is the rental experience expert for rent.com, a free rental site that helps you find an affordable apartment and provides tips on how to move.
- Real Estate