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Rent vs. Buy Analysis Leaves Use And Enjoyment Out Of The Equation

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The New York Times this weekend released the results of an analysis of the costs and benefits of home ownership and renting, considering the tax benefits [NY Times]. [2] It is a difficult topic to cover.

The article concludes that now may be a better time to rent than buy since prices are rising, rents are just beginning to rise and buyers place too much emphasis on the tax deduction.

We have to give credit to the New York Times Real Estate Section for publishing this analysis since they depend largely on advertising revenues from real estate brokers. Whether or not you agree with their analysis, it is refreshing to see this sort of thing.

One point of contention I have with articles like this is the concept of valuing the bundle of rights of ownership. This is left largely out of rent to value equation because it is so subjective. For example, the Economist magazine has been trying to call the collapse of the housing market for the past 4 years [Economist] [3] using the spread between rents and sales prices as the predictor of housing price inflation but does not attempt to quantify home ownership within their analysis.

rentdue [4] Nearly every article like this has an advantage of ownership as a feature such as the freedom to change the “color of their living room walls,” but its not quantified. It seems to me that the rent that a property is worth does not reflect all components of its value.

In other words, if a premium is placed on owner occupancy in a given market, then the value to the purchaser would be higher for an owner occupant than it is to an investor. For example, even during the darkest days of the recession in New York, the Manhattan townhouse market reflected a premium for single family houses over two to four family houses. The rental income of the units in the building did not justify the prices being paid for two to four family houses using the multipliers and overall cap rates used by investors at that time as buyers opted to convert these houses to single family.

Using rents as the only way to quantify use and enjoyment of a property paints an incomplete picture.

In addition, the rent versus buy decision should only apply on a case by case basis. It sort of like saying that nationally housing prices went up x% and then applying that amount to your property. The same goes for the opposite end of the spectrum. Rosy reports of rising prices do not always apply to all properties in the same manner.

Related Links
Housing: Buy or Rent [Angry Bear] [5]
NYTimes: Is It Better to Buy or Rent? [Calculated Risk] [6]