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To Rent Or Buy In Pennsylvania

By Elizabeth Elstien

Buying a home is a serious commitment. Where once homeownership was the ultimate American goal, these days many are purposely choosing not to buy a home and rent instead. To rent or own? Follow along while the pros and cons of renting versus owing a home in Pennsylvania are weighed.

Consider Costs

While actual moving costs are the same when either buying or renting, the up-front costs for renting a home are significantly less than for buying one. A buyer must have enough funds for the down payment, closing costs and inspections. Closing costs alone are about 6% of the purchase price, so could total $12,000 for a $200,000 home purchase.

Renters need only first and sometimes last month's rent plus a security deposit. The latter is all or partially refundable if the home is left in the same condition as at move-in, barring normal wear and tear. An average one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in Philadelphia runs about $800, so assuming there is no pet, move-in costs would be about $2,400. Both buyers and renters pay start-up utility fees and any required utility deposits.

Moving Madness

Renters can move with as little as a thirty-day notice, but must wait until lease expiration or pay an early lease termination fee. Homeowners can move any time, but unless they can afford two mortgages, may need to coordinate their move with the selling or renting of their current home. Military personnel or those who move a lot due to work may find the convenience of a quick move with a rental home more agreeable to their lifestyle.

Painting And Remodeling Ready

Homeowners can paint and remodel a home as they wish, although homeowner's association rules must be followed for exterior painting and remodeling if the home is in a subdivision. Renters cannot make changes (even applying a fresh coat of paint in a more appealing color) on a rental property without the permission of the owner. Some owners will give permission to paint or make minor changes if the property is returned to its original move-in condition.

Maintenance Mayhem

Maintenance costs come into play once a home is purchased. Funds must be set aside for major repairs or new appliances, such as a new air conditioning unit or range. The purchase of home insurance (paid at closing to a home insurance company of the buyer's choice) can help defray maintenance/appliance expenses. Renters just call in any needed maintenance or repairs and the landlord is responsible for the cost provided the damage is not caused by renter negligence. Appliances that came with the rental are the responsibility of the landlord, unless otherwise stated in the rental lease.

Pet Peeves

Pets can be prohibitive for renters, as many homeowners won't rent to those with certain pets. For instance, it is becoming difficult to find a rental property that will accept dog breeds such as chows or pit bulls due to insurance issues. Many landlords won't accept pets at all, dogs nor cats, limiting rental choices. If pets are accepted, a pet deposit is usually required and it may not be refundable. Property owners need not worry about pet restrictions other than homeowner's association rules if home is in a subdivision or city laws, which renters also have to abide by.

Tax Time

Homeowners have an advantage at tax time. The mortgage interest and real estate tax payments, as well as many home improvements, are tax deductible. In addition, homeowners are acquiring real estate wealth through increased equity as the mortgage amount decreases. Renters have no such tax advantage and no real estate wealth.

Community Connections

Long-term homeowners stay in the same community for years and develop social and community bonds with neighbors and businesses. Similarly, education in the same school system enables kids to be more confident and productive in a stable learning environment. Renters tend to move more often and are less likely to develop community connections or learning stability.

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