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Why Renters are the Next Mortgage Crisis

If you’ve been wondering if you should be renting rather than owning, consider this expert’s view.

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If the constant media drum beat of negativity toward home ownership has you wondering if you’re crazy for buying a home instead of renting, you’ll feel better after reading Liz Davidson’s Forbes Magazine blog, The Next Mortgage Crisis.

Davidson, the CEO of financial education company Financial Finesse, argues that renters set themselves up for financial failure in retirement:

“Today, there’s another mortgage crisis in the works — that is, NOT having one — choosing to rent when you can afford to buy; choosing to forgo building equity in a home as a major source of retirement security — something that may be more necessary now than ever before with a soft stock market and low interest rates.”

Her cautionary tale compares the consumer who buys a $300,000 home and has a $1,500 monthly mortgage payment with the consumer who rents.

If rents rise at the pace of current inflation (3.2% a year) the renter will pay $900,000 for housing over 30 years, while the home owner will pay $540,000 because his payment continues to be $1,500 a month.

If his house appreciates 1% a year, the home owner heads into retirement with $100,000 in equity in addition to the $300,000 he paid for his house. The home owner does have to keep paying housing expenses like property taxes and insurance, but the monthly mortgage is paid off.

Meanwhile, the renter has paid nearly twice as much to keep a roof over his head for 30 years, has given up $400,000 in retirement assets, and has to continue paying rent during retirement.

Becoming a nation of renters will bring on a future financial crisis, Davidson predicts:

“If Americans don’t recover soon from their pessimism around home ownership, we predict another fallout from the financial crisis will surface many years from now when a nation of renters tries to retire. They won’t have equity in their homes. Their paychecks will be stretched to the limit, not leaving room for saving and investing for retirement and other financial goals such as college funding. Instead of their expenses reducing through retirement, they will look straight down the barrel of increased rent payments for the rest of their lives.”

I know everyone isn’t suited for home ownership. But for me, home ownership is a ticket to an affordable retirement and the reason I can tell my high schooler she can go to college anywhere that will take her, and why I can look forward to a last pit stop at a really nice nursing home on my way out of this world. I can’t imagine trading that security for the short-term freedom of a rental home.

Are you sorry or happy you choose to buy your home? Could you see yourself going back to renting?

Dona-DeZube Dona DeZube

has been writing about real estate for more than two decades. She lives in a suburban Baltimore Midcentury modest home on a 3-acre lot shared with possums, raccoons, foxes, a herd of deer, and her blue-tick hound. Follow Dona on Google+.

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