When Jorge Padilla’s fiancé, Ana Carolina Amaya, moved to Miami in January to be with him, the young couple had to decide — rent or buy? Padilla was already renting an apartment, but the two wanted a place of their own.
Padilla, a certified financial planner with Lubitz Financial Group in Miami, ran the numbers and said financially, it made sense for them to buy. But Amaya is finishing up a master’s in human resources from Florida International University and they don’t know where she will find a job. Besides, the house they can afford now may not be the house they want to stay in, he said.
The couple decided to rent.
“Renting is right for us at the moment, even though financially, it makes sense for us to buy,” Padilla said.
When pondering renting versus buying, sometimes you have to look outside of the spreadsheet to find the right answers.
“You have to ask yourself the right questions. The numbers could tell one story, but your situation could tell you another,” Padilla said. “You have to reconcile the two and figure out what makes sense. Look at the numbers. Tally the options, and ask what feels right to you.”
Here’s the big picture: mortgage interest rates are at record lows. Property prices are at 2003 levels. It’s the perfect climate to buy — but can you? Should you?
Brett Horowitz, a certified financial planner with Evensky & Katz in Coral Gables, said it’s a good environment for owning — if you can afford it. “There are low interest rates, lower property values, and rentals are high.”
But lack of cash for a down payment or a low credit score often kick potential buyers out of the pool, he said.
“People are being forced into renting,” Horowitz said. “That’s why rental costs are high, because demand is up.”
Padilla said an influx of foreign buyers who are paying cash also is a barrier to those who need to borrow to buy. Sellers like cash buyers because there’s less hassle and the deal is more likely to close, he said.
Prospective buyers need to know that the real estate market is heating up, but overall, prices are still down, said Lynda Fernandez, spokeswoman for the Miami Association of Realtors. Median single family home prices rose about 25 percent in Miami-Dade and Broward from March 2012 to 2013. Median prices for condos and townhomes rose 19 percent in Miami-Dade and 27 percent in Broward in the same period.
“But the median price for a single family home in Miami-Dade is still 40 percent below the peak in 2008,” Fernandez said. “Prices are still at 2003 levels.”
Here are some things to consider if you’re trying to decide whether to buy or rent:
What works for you?
With a rental, when you’re ready to move on, you basically lock the door and leave, Horowitz said. There’s no upkeep, and you can buy yourself time if you’re not sure you’re going to stay in an area, or if you think you’ll want to trade up to a bigger place.
Advantages to homeownership include building both equity and a credit score, Horowitz said. Florida also is one of a handful of states that offers homestead protection, which means if you are sued, your home is a protected asset in certain situations, said May Cheung, a certified financial planner with The Enrichment Group in Miami. If you build equity in a home, you can leverage it to borrow to start a business, and you can deduct mortgage interest if you itemize, she said.