You have to live somewhere. For most of us, the choice is simply functional -- we all need food, clothing, and shelter, but we also want our homes to function well for our needs and preferences.
Functionality begins with making a good decision, based on your requirements and what you can afford. Whether you rent or buy, you decide which home to choose based on affordability, availability and functionality.
Renting is a great option for the short term, when you're building your savings and may have another move or two before settling down to a home of your own. The functions of renting are independence, affordability, and mobility. As your life matures, you may become more interested in homebuying because your ideas of functionality may change.
You may want more room, privacy, and better access to certain amenities, schools, family or work. You may want a different lifestyle that your current neighborhood doesn't foster. You may want the autonomy to choose and change the style of your home so you can enjoy your surroundings with your own décor. You may want a home that allows you to expand your interests, such as cooking in a larger kitchen, creating art in a studio, or having a large back yard for gardening and entertaining.
As your preferences become more focused and as the needs of your household change, you may find that owning a home is more suitable for your lifestyle. But, affordability has to be part of the function. In most areas, you can buy a home more affordably than renting.
Let's say that you find a 2400-square foot home for sale or lease. You may be able to rent it for $1.25 per square foot, or $3,000 per month, but you can buy the property for $1.65 per square foot or $400,000. When you finance the same property over 30 years, your payment is closer to $1,900. Add in typical property taxes and hazard insurance, and you're at about $2,700 per month, making buying the home a better choice for the long term.
You trade the mobility of renting for the opportunity to build equity. When you own a home, it usually takes several years of ownership before you can build enough equity to cover your transaction costs, making owning a home a long-term investment.
Functionality is about how the home itself can serve you. Square footage can indicate if a home is large enough to have the features you want, but you won't know until you go inside if the floorplan, features and number of beds and baths suit your wish list.
Choosing a home is really about how you want to use the space you have. As the owner, you have the option to leave things as they are or you can add or remove features as you wish, to improve the functionality of your home.
Whether you rent or buy, choosing a home is about getting the most benefit for your money. It should be a decision based on how well the location, space, and design can serve your needs and pocketbook.