If you’re considering renting versus buying a house, our rent vs. buy calculator can help. You can compare homebuying and renting expenses over a set time and crunch the numbers to see if you’re ready for homeownership, or if you need to step back and wait awhile to buy.
You’ll only need four pieces of information to get started:
- Your current ZIP code (or the ZIP code you’re thinking of buying in)
- Your desired home price
- Your target rent payment
- How long you plan to stay in the home
After you’ve entered this information, the calculator will give you a buy or rent recommendation.
What a buy recommendation means
The calculator will recommend you buy a home if the costs of homeownership are less than renting, based on how long you plan to live in the home. Typically, the longer you plan to live in a home, the more buying one makes sense.
What a rent recommendation means
If it costs more for you to buy a home than to rent it for the length of time you plan to stay in the home, you’re likely to get a “rent” recommendation. If you’re in the military or think you may be moving (for a job or for better weather) in the near future, the cost of buying and then selling a home may not be worth it
Our rent vs. buy calculator’s “advanced options:” What you should know
The calculator makes some assumptions about your down payment that are important to know to avoid any surprises. Here’s a quick look under the hood of the “advanced options” section:
There are a number of homebuying factors that can affect the rent vs. buy calculator’s recommendations, and this section lets you fine tune the numbers based on the following:
Down payment. The calculator is preset with a 20% down payment. Be sure to adjust it if you don’t have that much saved up (there are home loan programs with minimum down payments ranging from 0% to 3.5%).
Interest rate. Check out current mortgage rates to get the most accurate recommendation.
Mortgage term. A 30-year term gives you the lowest monthly payment, but you can choose a 15-year term if you’re able to afford the higher payment that comes with a shorter term.
Property taxes and home insurance. The calculator will estimate property taxes and homeowners insurance based on costs that are common for your ZIP code. If you have exact numbers for a specific house, you can enter them here.
HOA fees. If you’re buying a home in a subdivision controlled by a homeowners association, you’ll enter the monthly dues here.
Annual maintenance. As a homeowner, you’re on the hook for maintenance and repairs. A good rule of thumb is to set aside 1% of your loan amount per year for upkeep or fixup expenses.
Annual home appreciation. The calculator assumes your house will appreciate at a rate of 3% per year. However, that figure may be much higher or lower depending on your local real estate market.
Cost of selling your home. One of the drawbacks to homeownership is that you typically pay the full 6% real estate commission to the agents that market and help you find a buyer for your home.
Closing costs. You’ll typically pay about 2% toward closing costs including title fees, inspections, staging fees and other expenses related to selling your home. The amount may vary depending on how much it takes to get your home ready to sell.
Investment return rate. This can vary based on the real estate market in your area, but the calculator assumes you’ll get a 3% investment return rate.
Inflation. Our calculator assumes a 2% inflation rate. Low inflation is good because it keeps interest rates low and gives you more spending power. High inflation puts the squeeze on your budget and reduces home affordability.
There are number of tax benefits of homeownership, and if you have your tax info handy, you can also add that information to the following rent vs. buy calculator fields:
Annual income. This is how much you make before taxes, and should include the income of anyone else applying with you to buy a home.
Marginal income tax rate. Your tax professional may be able to help you with this question if you don’t know the answer based on your recent tax returns.
Average savings and loan tax rate. This field allows the calculator to compare the benefit of keeping your down payment money in a savings account versus investing it in a home, and is preset to 5%.
Other tax deductions. If you have any other tax deductions you typically take, you can enter them here. The calculator will assume at least $2,500 of additional deductions.
Married box. The married box will tell the computer what standard deductions to choose based on your marriage status.
This section focuses on rental costs and allows you to tweak the following fields:
Rental inflation. If you’re not sure about this, you might want to ask a real estate agent that specializes in home rentals in your area. Otherwise, the calculator will assume your rent increases 3% every year.
Annual rental insurance. Any premium you pay for rental insurance should be entered here or it will default to $180 per year.