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To buy or not to buy?

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That is the question prompting a rent-vs-own debate on the NYT CityRoom blog, where Times reporter Christine Haughney suggests the answer varies by the price of real estate in a specific neighborhood. Our reading of the comments so far: Renting beats buying by a comfortable margin.  Here are some arguments on both sides:

Buying:

  • You don't have to move every 1-2 years, as leases sometimes require. 
  • You can fix up the place as you like. 
  • You can take advantage of mortgage interest and tax payment deductions. 
  • Being an owner among owners brings a sense of community as you see the same people through the years. 
  • Management companies are more responsive to owners.
  • If you can't get hold of a decent rent stabilized apartment, and are in for the long haul, "buying allows you to fix a huge portion of your expenses and makes more sense where costs are comparable. It also lets you keep a foot in the market, which is essential protection if prices increase drastically."
  • "The basic reason for owning ... is control of my home." 

Renting:

  • "You can always pull up stakes and go to another neighborhood when your present location becomes overdeveloped."
  • The transaction costs of buying and selling in NYC, notably the mortgage recording and transfer tax, make owning a losing proposition investment-wise.
  • Rent in big cities and buy in the country, preferably near weekend getaway spots, usually a better investment, if only for your sanity.
  • "Buying is a great idea--when the numbers make sense. The numbers have not made sense in at least 13 years." 
  • Rent-stabilized tenants cannot lose their tenancy at the landlord's whim.
  • And this from a renter of 40 years: "No one ever told me I could not replace the washer/dryer I had for years. Or that the relative that spends Christmas vacation with me for years was suddenly staying too long. Or that the 40-pound dog I owned for 10 years now weighs too much to live with me. Buy a condo or a co-op, and you could be [the] one who ends up owned."

(NYTimes.com)

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