The vast majority of Marquette students has or will rent an apartment for their junior and senior years. Every month, students write a rent check to the slumlords who make a huge profit off of their condemnable buildings. After graduation, as students move off campus and into the real world, they need to think about whether to buy a home or keep writing rent checks. There are many advantages and disadvantages to each option.
But first, for those of you who are leaving the friendly confines of Schroeder, Straz, Mashuda, or Carpenter and moving off campus for the first time, here are a few things to keep in mind when renting. Find out what utilities are included. Does it include water, garbage, heat, electricity, or cable? All of these things add a substantial cost to the apartment. Also, be sure to read the lease. Many landlords have huge restrictions on the number of occupants, kegs/parties and pets (which I find ironic, because four guys can do much more damage to a place than a Labrador).
Now, for those of you who are moving to the real world, there is more to consider than just pets and kegs. Personal situations must be assessed to determine if it is appropriate to buy or rent.
First, can you afford to buy a place? Purchasing a home involves fees, down payments, taxes, mortgage payments, repairs, and more. Typically, renting is much cheaper and assumes less risk. As a side note, if you find a rental that is just a little out of your price range, you can try to haggle. If a building has lots of vacancies, landlords may lower their prices to fill the space.
Second, you need to assess your time horizon. If you are going to spend one or two years in your new location, then move somewhere else, renting is your best choice. If you are staying for a longer time, more than three to five years, buying may be a better choice. Some reasons to hold off from buying short term are fees and the mortgages payment structure. The longer you live in the house, the more those fees are mitigated over the years. Mortgage payments are structured with high interest payments during the first few years. This means you are not building up as much equity in the first few years as you do later on.
If you determine that buying a place is appropriate, you should hire a real estate agent and look for a mortgage broker. A real estate agent will know the area and can show you homes in your price range. Find someone you like who comes across more like a professional than like a used car salesman. A mortgage broker will help you set up the financing. Usually you should go with the mortgage broker who can find you the lowest rate.
Both of these people are salesmen and they work off of commission (meaning they only make money when they close a deal). In their eyes, it is always “A great time to buy.” Therefore, you should learn about the market on your own to decide if it is a wise investment. Research the local housing market, the general housing market and the financing market.
Buying a house is the biggest financial decision most people will make in their whole lives. Educating yourself is paramount.