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Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent
Old 08-29-2004, 05:32 AM   #1
 
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Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent

Came across the Scott Burns Column today. He laid out his case of why it is much cheaper to pay $1500 a month than live in a $350,000 paid up home.

Numbers were being tossed around here in another thread that ignored some of the facts.

The statement of 'you'll be paying someone else's mortgage or your own' is not the whole story.
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent
Old 08-29-2004, 07:42 AM   #2
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcont...rns.a2684.html
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent
Old 08-29-2004, 09:44 AM   #3
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent

I read this and responded over on intrcst's board.

It's hard to argue that spending less is not better than spending more from a financial perspective. But he could also have looked at purchasing a small 1-bedroom condo in a low cost area to purchasing a McMansion in the exclusive part of town. Guess which is better from a financial perspective.

If renting is cheaper than owning, then either

1) you are not comparing equivalent housing (the case most of the time),

2) you're landlord is losing money on you,

or 3) one of you made a deal outside of the norm (you made a really bad deal or your landlord made a really good deal).

Any of these is possible. But it does really come down to paying someone else's mortagage, insurance, taxes and maintenance or paying your own.
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent
Old 08-29-2004, 10:23 AM   #4
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent

Its not possible in any area I've lived in to pay $1500 rent on a house thats worth $350k. In fact this article specifically involves a couple moving from a large $350k house to a substantially downsized $1500 rental in a complex. Apples and grapes.

Scott also plucks a 5% of the homes value per year cost for maintenance. That would be $17k on that house or about $15k on mine. I spend about 2k. If that. There is no explanation as to where he gets that number. Probably a "study". In fact, on any home I've owned, in different parts of the country, different construction types, different types of neighborhoods, i've never spent anywhere near 5% of the homes value to maintain it.

His entire thesis hangs on this defective number, as he points out tha a homes maintenance is often as high as a low end rent, so one can sell ones home and feed the investment returns into the rent, just about falling even with the home maintenance costs, and having all that equity turn into investment vehicles.

The consideration also depends on future rate of investment returns, that they'll be as good as in the past, yada yada. In particular he mentioned REITS, which have had one hell of a runup.

Still mystifies me how a lot of people respect a lot of investment experts who almost universally say future investment returns wont be as good, then that part falls out of their head when they start considering a financial decision.

Not to mention it probably doesnt include factors like not wanting to be forced to move by a landlord selling or remodelling a property, or how I'd manage to find a rental with as many dogs and cats as I have.

Its just not cut and dried. Like anything else.

The article sounded a lot more to me like a pitch to downsize from a house rich, equity poor situation into a smaller, more remote, downsized rental unit or manufactured home in a 'community' (read: beehive).

I couldnt and wouldnt be happy with that. Nor I suspect would many people.
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent
Old 08-29-2004, 11:19 AM   #5
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent

Quote:
Scott also plucks a 5% of the homes value per year cost for maintenance. *That would be $17k on that house or about $15k on mine. *I spend about 2k. *If that. *There is no explanation as to where he gets that number.
Maybe a bit high and maybe not. *If I read it correctly it appears that the $17K was for total yearly home ownership costs - taxes, insurance, property upkeep, etc. *Now your $2K probably didn't those other items nor did it likely include amortization for the cost of replacing the roof or the furnace or any of the other large cost items. *Given that they've probably lived in that home for many years those things might be getting close to needing replaced.

Also, the guy is 62 not 40-something. *I imagine that he's going to be hiring somebody to do a lot of those jobs and not tackling them himself. *I know that my dad doesn't and can't do as much as he used to. *He hires somebody to do things simpler than stuff he used to do when he was 40-something and he's done some serious remodelling over the years plus he was an electrician by trade for almost 50 years.
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent
Old 08-29-2004, 11:27 AM   #6
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent

Actually my costs DO include most of those items. My ordinary expenses in a calendar year are roughly 2k, which is mostly insurance and property taxes.

My roof is a 50 year concrete roof, siding is stucco.

My maintenance is 5 minutes of lawn cutting a week, 15 minutes of shrub trimming a month, cleaning the gutters once a year with a six foot step ladder. My 70 year old dad manages this same maintenance on his similar home.

I will have to replace the furnace in 15 years, and some kitchen appliances. I have to paint the stucco every 15-20 years. Amortized over their lifespan, these add a few hundred dollars to the 2k.

Sure as hell isnt anywhere near 15k.

Nowwwww..if you want to make the argument "Buying a large, high maintenance, expensive house when you're completely unable to do any work or maintenance on it yourself is a worse idea financially than renting a small apartment", then you get no disagreement from me.

But that wasnt the topic, nor really what Burns is pitching.
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent
Old 08-29-2004, 12:09 PM   #7
 
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent

Quote:
If renting is cheaper than owning, then either
1) you are not comparing equivalent housing (the case most of the time),
2) you're landlord is losing money on you,
or 3) one of you made a deal outside of the norm (you made a really bad deal or your landlord made a really good deal).
Any of these is possible. But it does really come down to paying someone else's mortagage, insurance, taxes and maintenance or paying your own.
Hello SG, This situation here doesn't fit your model. Renting is cheaper than owning. You cannot buy a house and rent it, and pay the mortgage -- not even close.

Here's the situation:

Prices for moderate houses have more than doubled over the last three to four years. A house that sold for $200K in 2000, is selling for $500K now.

Say someone bought the house in 2000, and rented it out for $1300 per month. The landlord can pretty much cover their costs.

Now, the same house costs $500K. The landlord raises the rent $1800 over the last 3 years. So the landlord has excellent cash flow since their mortgage payments are cheap. However, they can't raise the rent to $3000, because the market will not support this high of a rent. But the landlord is still getting a good deal renting at $1800.

These numbers approximate what we're seeing here.

It's the same reason why a hyped company can have a run up in their stock price without having a runup in earnings. Eventually, either the stock price falls back to the norm, or the earnings increase.
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent
Old 08-29-2004, 12:59 PM   #8
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent

You've just covered the current disparity between rents and home purchase costs, which usually indicates that housing will trend down, or rents will trend up.

But you're still not taking the comparison used in the Burns article. He's comparing a home someone already owns with a transactional move to a rental. Not a new "buy vs rent, same property" comparison.

These comparisons also do not create any 20-30 year effects of inflation and housing cost increases vs rent increases.

My owned home has a very specific set of fixed costs (taxes, regular recognized maintenance) and some unique variable costs (ex: whoops, termites). You avoid the unexpected unique variable costs by renting, but one way or another pay most or all of the fixed costs.

For me though, those fixed costs wont change excepting a 1% adjustment of the property tax per year.

Rents will just keep on a going up.

You've also just inadvertently supported another problem with renting. If I owned a property worth $500k and I could only get rent appropriate for a 200k value, that house would be sold in about 7 seconds. And you, the tenant, would be moving because a new owner wouldnt be buying it in order to rent it out for a loss.

I have the inverse situation right now. An empty house thats just been fully rehabbed. Its work about $170-180k. I wont rent it, when I have the opportunity I'm going to sell it. Why? I can get about $1k a month, maybe $1200 pushing it for rent. After subtracting out the property taxes, insurance, maintenance and wear and tear, I'd be making about as much on that $170k "investment" as I'd net in a muni bond fund. Granted there are some opportunities for some tax treatment, but not worth the couple of midnight "pipe is leaking" phone calls and the "we're moving out, sorry about the holes in the walls" tenants.
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent
Old 08-29-2004, 01:06 PM   #9
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent

Quote:
You've also just inadvertently supported another problem with renting. If I owned a property worth $500k and I could only get rent appropriate for a 200k value, that house would be sold in about 7 seconds. And you, the tenant, would be moving because a new owner wouldnt be buying it in order to rent it out for a loss.
Not if you were convinced that real estate prices were going to keep on going up. Then you'd keep the house just for the appreciation.


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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent
Old 08-29-2004, 01:36 PM   #10
 
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent

Quote:
But you're still not taking the comparison used in the Burns article. He's comparing a home someone already owns with a transactional move to a rental. Not a new "buy vs rent, same property" comparison.
Burns is advocating downsizing. The article didn't take into account that the $1500/month rental isn't as nice as the $350K house.

I sold a house on the mainland that was worth about $350. The costs of ownership where nowhere near 5%. They were more like 1.5% - 2%. Then again, the house was in good condition.


Quote:

My owned home has a very specific set of fixed costs (taxes, regular recognized maintenance) and some unique variable costs (ex: whoops, termites). You avoid the unexpected unique variable costs by renting, but one way or another pay most or all of the fixed costs.


Rents will just keep on a going up.
You've also just inadvertently supported another problem with renting. If I owned a property worth $500k and I could only get rent appropriate for a 200k value, that house would be sold in about 7 seconds. And you, the tenant, would be moving because a new owner wouldnt be buying it in order to rent it out for a loss.
The landlord cannot _always_ have a tenant pay the costs of ownership. They get what the market will bear. It's very difficult to justify a purchase based on rents now. The P/E is off the extremely high and would result in significant negative cash flow for anyone purchasing now.

The issue of having the landlord sell is certainly a risk. However, the housing market isn't very liquid. Many landlords here live on the mainland, and are happy to have have a good tenant and a positive cash flow. Keep in mind that rents have increased, just not nearly as much as housing prices. There are also old timers that have owned the properties for years and will not even consider selling. It's their cash cow, and again, they are happy to have good tenants and pos. cash flow.

The situation here is somewhat unique in that many owners are wealthy mainlanders. In addition, there are local people that have owned for a long time. However, high paying jobs are non-existent. There's a large pool people that need a place to live and make $10.hour working in the service industry. If rents increase, these people have to leave because they can't afford to live here.


Quote:

I have the inverse situation right now. An empty house thats just been fully rehabbed. Its work about $170-180k. I wont rent it, when I have the opportunity I'm going to sell it. Why? I can get about $1k a month, maybe $1200 pushing it for rent. After subtracting out the property taxes, insurance, maintenance and wear and tear, I'd be making about as much on that $170k "investment" as I'd net in a muni bond fund. Granted there are some opportunities for some tax treatment, but not worth the couple of midnight "pipe is leaking" phone calls and the "we're moving out, sorry about the holes in the walls" tenants.
Ahh, this is precisely why I sold my house on the mainland.

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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent
Old 08-29-2004, 01:51 PM   #11
 
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent

Quote:

Not if you were convinced that real estate prices were going to keep on going up. Then you'd keep the house just for the appreciation.
Or,

- you want to hold the house to live in someday.

- you are very conservative and 'believe' in owning a house. My mom has owned IBM stock that her uncle left her 30 years ago. She never looks at the earnings, or stock price, or even considers selling. She just figures that IBM is a good company and she should hold on to the stock.

If rents continue to stay low relative to housing prices eventually enough people will realize they should sell, and housing prices will fall.

Or, perhaps, rents will increase.
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent
Old 08-29-2004, 01:56 PM   #12
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent

I think all these posts has proved the point. There is no way the renting is ALWAYS better than owning OR that owning is ALWAYS better than renting. There are just too many variables. It has to be looked at on a case by case basis.

In my particular case, in Cocoa Beach, Florida, you can rent an oceanfront condo for $1800 per month. Last year they were selling for under $400K which would not appear to be too good for the landlord. But as it turns out, demand is very high and the same property is now selling for over $500K! So, in this case the landlords are looking pretty smart. Would you have bought it at $400K to rent out, I wouldn't; how 'bout now? Who knows!
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent
Old 08-29-2004, 02:04 PM   #13
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent

Quote:

Hello SG, *This situation here doesn't fit your model. *Renting is cheaper than owning. *You cannot buy a house and rent it, and pay the mortgage -- not even close.

Here's the situation:

Prices for moderate houses have more than doubled over the last three to four years. *A house that sold for $200K in 2000, is selling for $500K now. *

Say someone bought the house in 2000, and rented it out for $1300 per month. *The landlord can pretty much cover their costs.

Now, *the same house costs $500K. *The landlord raises the rent $1800 over the last 3 years. *So the landlord has excellent cash flow since their mortgage payments are cheap. *However, they can't raise the rent to $3000, because the market will not support this high of a rent. *But the landlord is still getting a good deal renting at $1800.

These numbers approximate what we're seeing here.

It's the same reason why a hyped company can have a run up in their stock price without having a runup in earnings. *Eventually, either the stock price falls back to the norm, or the earnings increase.
I should have qualified my statement. In the case that Scott Burns was talking about where someone already owned their house for some time and was planning on selling it to move into an exactly equivalent house, I think my statement is still true. But you are correct that over very short periods of time, rents can be cheaper than buying. One clear exception to my comments is if you bought a house and then sold it at a loss in a short period of time. A problem with trying to make comparisons over short time periods is that it becomes difficult to factor in property appreciation during the ownership period.

Quote:
A house that sold for $200K in 2000, is selling for $500K now.
So if I bought that house in 2000, I could sell it today and would have made $300K -- minus a few percent per year in taxes, insurance and maintenance. How much would you have made if you rented that same house over that period of time and decided to stop now?
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent
Old 08-29-2004, 02:27 PM   #14
 
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent

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So if I bought that house in 2000, I could sell it today and would have made $300K -- minus a few percent per year in taxes, insurance and maintenance. How much would you have made if you rented that same house over that period of time and decided to stop now?
Obviously, try making the same argument with ENRON stock vs. a money market account. Enron went from almost $90/share in 2000 to worthless in just over a year. Yet from 1997-2000 if you compared ENRON to a money fund, it would look like a no brainer. The same thing happened to dozens of tech companies.

I don't think this will happen in the housing market, but there's a lot more negative pressure than there was 4 years ago. Housing cannot increase at an average of 25% per year over the long term. Increases like this are way out of the ordinary.

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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent
Old 08-29-2004, 02:58 PM   #15
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent

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Obviously, *try making the same argument with ENRON stock vs. a money market account. *Enron went from almost $90/share in 2000 to worthless in just over a year. *Yet from 1997-2000 if you compared ENRON to a money fund, it would look like a no brainer. *The same thing happened to dozens of tech companies.

I don't think this will happen in the housing market, *but there's a lot more negative pressure than there was 4 years ago. *Housing cannot increase at an average of 25% per year over the long term. *Increases like this are way out of the ordinary.
I don't follow your reasoning here. But as I look at it, renting cannot be cheaper than owning in the long run or all landlords are making a foolish mistake.

To make sure we are really considering an apples to apples comparison, consider this case: A person buys a home. The buyer puts down money to make the initial purchase, pays non-inflating mortgage payments for 30 years, reaps tax benefits, pays property taxes, insurance premiums, and for all required maintenance on the home. On the day of purchase the buyer begins renting out to someone who remains in the house the entire 30 years. On the day when the final mortgage payment is made, both the owner and the renter die. Assume any purchase price and rental rate you want. Assume any tax rate, insurance premium, maintenance arrangement you want. . . Whose estate is worth more based on their real estate choices?

Unless the landlord was a fool, the buyer should come out well ahead of the renter. In the end, buyers come out ahead of renters for every structure that is rented. That may not be true for any specific short period of time over the life of a house (ie. the landlord may choose to loose money for a short period of time but this is only so that he/she can gain the profits at a later period). So if you only look at a short period of time, one might believe that the renter is getting ahead. In order to stay ahead, the renter has to continue to find rental deals that beat the average annual amortized cost of the structure by a larger amount than the average appreciation of the value of the home. I don't think this happens very often.
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent
Old 08-29-2004, 03:39 PM   #16
 
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent

Yea, I agree. I took him at face value and never stopped to figure my Costs.

My house is about $500K and 5% would be $25,000 per year. I spend about half of that for Taxes, Insurance, Association Fees, Maint, Utilities. 2.5% seems to be a more reasonable figure.

Someone should call him on this one! - Maybe someone that is retired with plenty of time. Do you know anyone?

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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent
Old 08-29-2004, 03:45 PM   #17
 
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent

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I don't follow your reasoning here. But as I look at it, renting cannot be cheaper than owning in the long run or all landlords are making a foolish mistake.
My point is that just because the aggregate stock market is a an excellent investment over a long period of time doesn't mean that a specific company at a particular price and time is a good investment. You took the example I posed over a three year peroid to claim that owning is better than renting. But that's one example, in hindsight.

I agree with you -- over long periods of time buying real estate is a better investment than renting. The same can be said for buying the stock market over a short term bond fund. However that does not mean that a specific company is worth it's price today. Same goes for houses. Just because houses are a good investment over the long term, doesn't mean that an area isn't overvalued. In this case, it might make sense to rent, wait a few years, save more, and buy later when prices decline.

It's not uncommon to have corrections in local real estate markets that take 5-10 years to recover.

At this time (and especially in my area) there are several factors that indicate that housing prices are overvalued. They are:
1) Rents are low relative to housing prices.
2) Household income has lagged housing prices.

Add to that the strong possibility of rising interest rates, and a recent run-up in prices and the housing market looks overvalued.

I agree that the long averages are working against anyone waiting to buy. And that if you plan to hold for 30 years, you probably will do fine even if housing prices decline in the short term.

The argument for buying a home are even stronger when you intend to live in it.

Buying a house is the largest financial move most people make. It's too bad we can't 'dollar cost average' into the investment.
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent
Old 08-29-2004, 04:14 PM   #18
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent

While I am working I refuse to commute further than a mile to work - biking is better than coffee in the morning. But in doing so I just buy what I can afford as close to work - which is hot real estate in so cal - so finding a shack is fine with me - but now that shack is up to $550,000 and it bothers me that it jumped so fast is just a short time.

If I sell my house and and move to a nice area and buy a house for under $200k (or PT) I can dream retire - but it happened so fast. Now it seems like by the time I sell - the market will have collapsed.

So I just save that much more to account for that - and there's the funny cycle - save to pay for the decline in the housing market - silly ... but only in that is seems that way.
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent
Old 08-29-2004, 05:20 PM   #19
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent

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. . . I agree with you -- over long periods of time buying real estate is a better investment than renting. *The same can be said for buying the stock market over a short term bond fund. *However that does not mean that a specific company is worth it's price today. *Same goes for houses. *. . .
Hi John,

I think we're in agreement. Renting is often the most reasonable financial decision under certain circumstances and for short periods of time. I didn't mean to imply otherwise.
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent
Old 08-29-2004, 06:37 PM   #20
 
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Re: Scott Burns Article today - Home Own vs. rent

And Scott doesn't take into account the protection afforded a person who ownes their own home. It's darn near impossible to sell a person's home out from under them if they face some serious financial problem.
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