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“Are you still renting? Why don’t you buy yourself a house already. Rent money is DEAD MONEY!”

If you rent, I’m sure you have come across one of these people at least once in your life. And it’s most likely coming from a loved one who genuinely cares about you. It’s easy to understand how they come to this conclusion too. At the end of every month you have to fork over  hundreds (sometimes thousands) of your hard earned dollars for nothing more than the privilege of having a roof over your head. If you were to buy a house however, at least your payments are going towards something you can call your own. That’s the common theory amongst 99% of Australians (especially parents) at least. If you have the deposit ready, is it always better to buy than to rent?


Why You Should Buy

*Let me just make one thing clear before we delve into this debate. I’m going to be looking at this purely from a financial point of view. There are many intangibles that come from buying a home that you can’t measure in dollars. Your home is your castle that you raise your family in. There is an emotional attachment when buying a home which varies greatly from person A to person B. 

I personally only really see one major benefit from buying a house to live in.


It’s a pretty major benefit too. When you rent you are always at the mercy of the landlord. Rent could be raised at the end of your lease. Leaky pipes may never be fixed. You’re not allowed to buy a cat because it’s against the rules. And what happens if the landlord decides to sell to home owners who want to move in and kick you out? You have to find another place to live, and anyone who has ever moved or helped move someone can attest to how they would rather take a bullet than do that shit again. Ok it’s not quite that bad but it sucks trust me (have been involved in 10+ moves).

Forced Savings

Some people just can’t save money.

If it’s in their account and disposable, they just can’t help themselves and must spend it. I don’t have this problem personally but I understand that for many people it’s an issue. So how can you save money when you spend every spare dollar you earn?

Forced savings.

Unless you’re on an interest only loan, you will be paying some principal in your repayments each month. It’s the principal that actually pays off the home, the interest is just how the banks make their money.

The principal payment therefore are sort of like a forced savings mechanism. I say ‘sort of like’ because it’s a bit more complicated than thinking about it purely as savings. Theoretically if you bought your house for $X amount of money and sold it 30 years later for the same price after paying it off, then yes you would be essentially receiving a lump sum of all your principal repayments you have made during those 30 years (not factoring in buying/selling costs and inflation).

But! What happens if you never sell? What happens if the house goes down in value? What happens if no ones wants to buy your home?

It’s is extremely unlikely that you’re are going to have your house go down in value over 30 years but it could happen (see Japan). And it’s for this reason that savings via equity is not as straight forward as you think.

Regardless of these situations though, for people who struggle to save when they have disposable income, a forced savings plan might be a good thing for them. And the banks do a mighty fine job of making sure you ‘save’ every month. They are even kind enough to visit you if you miss too many ‘saving’ payments.


Why You Shouldn’t Buy


Since already establishing what I consider the single and biggest pro when buying to be security, if find yourself in the dilemma of choosing between renting or buying you must ask yourself, why do I need security?

There is merit for people who need the stability that buying comes with. If you have pets, children, elderly parents who you take care of or something else that would be greatly disrupted if you ever had to move. Then I could 100% see the importance of security.

BUT! With security there also comes restrictions!

When you buy a home, suddenly you can’t just pick up your things and leave. You could rent out your house but that’s a pain in the arse. You could sell your house. That is also annoying and it costs money to do so.

Really, really expensive

Buying a home usually means taking out a mortgage. Having debt on something that does not produce any cash flow is a liability. Some people say your home is an asset, I disagree.

But lets push aside some negatives for the time being and imagine that you are someone who needs stability and believes that they are not going to want to live anywhere else for the next few years. Now you actually need to buy the house and pay it off over the next 30 years. Lets crunch the numbers.

How much does it actually cost to buy a house?

Everyone is different but lets just go with the standard formula of 25% of the purchase price (20% deposit and 5% buying costs). On a $600K house this works out to be $120K for the deposit and $30K for buying costs. The loan amount is $480K and even though interest rates are at historical lows now, they will eventually go up so lets just go with 7% fixed interest rate for the entire 30 years of the loan.

Using money smart’s mortgage calculator we can graph the repayments.

Rent or Buy?

A few things instantly pop out at me.

Firstly you may notice that the total cost of servicing this loan amount for 30 years equals $1,149,643.


Secondly, the dark pink area represents the principal amount of the loan ($480K) and the light pink is the interest. You end up paying more in interest than you do for the actual loan amount… Just think about that for a second. Some say rent money is dead money, well the same can be said for interest too. YOU JUST SPENT $670K ON ‘DEAD’ MONEY!

It’s hard to even think about. If we break up that interest over the 30 years it works out to be  $429 a week or $1,861 a month. You could rent a really nice place for that kind of money.

But because you have chosen to buy you have to pay the interest repayments PLUS the principal, which comes to $3,193 per month. That’s a shit load of money leaving your account each month. I don’t know about you, but that would severely impact my lifestyle if I had to make those repayments each month for the next 30 years.

So far we have $120K for the deposit, $30K buying costs and $1.15M for servicing the loan over 30 years. That comes to around $1.3M!

Rent or Buy?

So far we have covered how much it’s going to cost you to buy the house, but we haven’t covered how much extra it’s going to cost you to keep it running.

Here are just some extra items that come with the privilege of buying:
– Rates
– Home Insurance
– Water Fees
– Body Corp Fees
– If anything breaks in the house (plumbing, electrical wires, air con etc.) YOU have to pay to fix it

In a publication from the RBA, they estimated that on average the running costs for a house is 1.5% of its value.

That’s $270K over 30 years to keep a $600K house up and running.

Combining the buying costs with the running costs comes out at a whopping $1.53 MILLION DOLLARS to buy and maintain a $600K house for 30 years.


Forget about Equity!

The other big benefit that a lot of people seem to bring up in this debate is that buying a home will make you money somehow? Last time I checked, buying a home TO LIVE IN does no such thing. You can’t collect rent when you live in your home (unless you have kids). And even if the house goes up in value, it is irrelevant because you can’t live in your house and sell it too. If you withdraw equity then I am of the opinion that you’re selling yourself short of the major benefit of buying a home in the first place (security). You could sell and buy another home BUT this was not the original purpose of buying. If you INTENTIONALLY bought a home only to sell it later in life for a higher price then you are actually investing and the ATO investigates these occurrences where couples may buy and sell every couple of years and take advantage of the CGT exception.

When you buy a house to live in, your goal should not be to sell it later for a higher price. Factoring this into account, I stand by my statement that you will not make money when you buy a house to live in. This removes any investment type gains home owners might be privy to when trying to compare to renters. We want to compare apples to apples as closely as possible. When you start talking about how much the house went up in value it should not be factored into the equation because if someone is happy living somewhere and never sells, then the equity gain is void.


Why You Should Rent


Other than your lease period, renters are free to jump from one place to another.

Don’t like the cost of rent? Move.

Don’t like the location anymore? Move.

Landlord not fixing things around the property? Move

I know that moving is a pain in the arse but do you know what’s more of a pain in the arse? Trying to sell your home AND moving.

It seems to be a growing trend among young people to spend their 20’s travelling around the world, studying and trying new experiences. And that’s awesome! I think that your youth, particularly between the ages of 23-29 is an extremely precocious and unique time in your life when you’re not tied down and most likely have finished your trade/degree and working full time.

You have full time money coming in, are young and can do what you want. Why would you want to tie yourself down by buying a house? You are in such a unique position to be able to drop everything and move/explore/discover the world.

Renting can provide you with the flexibility needed to live this kind of lifestyle.

I personally don’t intend to buy a home to live in until I’m ready to have kids, but that’s me and everyone’s different.

Usually Cheaper

If you think rent is dead money, then you must certainly see interest repayments on a home loan to also be dead money. You can work out the percentage of interest repayments quite easily because they are set by the bank. But comparing that to rent repayments is a bit trickier at first but is easy once you realise how to compare the two.

To work out if you are better off renting and saving money than you are buying and forcing savings (through principal repayments), you must know the rental yield of the property. To calculate this you have to know two things;

  1. How much the place you want to rent is worth?
  2. How much does rent cost?

For example:

The place you want to rent is currently being advertised for $400 a week and you think it’s worth about $600K because the place next door is nearly identical to it and is for sale for $600K. Rental yield is calculated using the following formula:

Rental Yield = R/PP

Where R = Rent (Per Year)

And PP = Purchase Price

In our above example this would be

Rental Yield = $20,800/ $600,000

Rental Yield = 3.5%

Can you find a bank with a lower interest rate than 3.5%? Right now the answer is no. The average interest rate for a standard variable loan is 5.1% and that’s with today’s historically low cash rates.

Considering today’s rental yields are 3.5% and 4.4% for houses and units respectively in all Australian capitals, you would either have to be paying above market rent or find a killer bargain for it to work out cheaper to buy than to rent.

It’s simple, is the rental yield you’re paying more than the interest rate you would have to pay if you bought? For the vast majority of Australians I would say the rental yield is going to be lower. There are a few places I have seen in the country where the rental yield is quite a bit higher but I have yet to see it in the capital cities, especially Sydney and Melbourne.

And this is not even factoring in all the other crap that comes along with buying (stamp duty, rates, insurance Etc.)

To compare to our example above. If we rented at $400 for 30 years and factoring in inflation at 2.5% we end up paying $913,176 in rent. This is being pessimistic too because I didn’t factor in inflation for the rates, insurance, body corp etc. above so it would have actually been even more to keep the house running over 30 years.

Still, this means that renting over 30 years come out over $600K cheaper than to buy.

However, the person in the above example now owns the assets outright and at worst is sitting on about $1.23M of equity ($600K over 30 years at 2.5% inflation rate) where as the person who rents has no equity.

** 27/03/2018 EDIT **
There seems to be a lot of comments about me using 2.5% in the above calculation. Australian property (all of Australia not just Melbourne and Sydney) has risen by 2.8% (real rate of return) during the last 30 years (SOURCE)! You could even put the return @ 5% and renting would still come out ahead.

I can’t account for all rates of returns. These are the numbers I have used with a source to back them up. Obviously if the return for properties increases in the future the results are going to be different.
** /EDIT **


BUT! The person who rents has a far greater cash flow position than the person who buys. The renter should have just over $600K (total cost to buy over 30 years minus paying rent for 30 years) extra over 30 years if they managed their money and saved the difference. This works out to be an extra $20K per year the renter has up their sleeve.

Lets assume that the renter realises this advantageous position and instead of blowing the extra $20K, they invest it yearly in a diversified portfolio. Suddenly something strange happens.

At $20K per year over 30 years with a rate of return of 9% (historic average) can you believe that the renter can amass a net worth position of $2.7M!!!

Rent or Buy?

Sweet baby Jesus.

I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have $2.7M invested in income producing assets and have no house to my name than having a money draining house paid off with around $1.23M of equity that you might never tap into after 30 years!


Why You Shouldn’t Rent

Landlords, Leases and Leaks

Have you ever had that real asshole of a boss that is always checking up on what you’re doing, invading your privacy and never fixing the  things that are broken at work?

This can be what it’s like when you rent. There are good landlords out there but there are also terrible ones.

Since you are sort of borrowing their house to live in for a while (renting), you can’t make changes to it as you please. For some people this is not an issue but for others (my old man included) it can be hard because they like to tinker, fix things and customize their home to their liking. You can’t exactly knock down a wall to expand your living room without receiving some sort of angry letter from your rental agent. Even if you’re helping to fix the property you can get into trouble. This sucks when there are issues with the rental, like broken heaters, leaky taps, out of service hot water systems Etc.

I hope you didn’t have your heart set on this place either. Because the landlord has just decided to sell the property when your lease period ends to the higher bidder. There is a chance that the next owner could want to rent it out too but there is also the chance that it’s a new family who want to move in straight away. Which means you will have to move out!

Luckily the new owner does intend to rent this pace out. You have lived there for 3 years and have a great history looking after the place. The new landlord offers you another lease and at first you are very happy, that is until you read the fine print which says they have just upped the rent per week by $20 bucks!


Might be time to move places, which of course means attending multiple open days, submitting application after application in hopes that you land one that suites. When you finally find one that you have been offered it’s now time to have a weekend from hell carting all your crap around town to the new place.

FINALLY settled you now sit back and relax in your new abode. 10 months pass and you receive another letter saying that the owners wants to sell… FFS!


No forced savings

If you have a hard time sticking to a budget than renting might not be the smartest move. It’s definitely possible to come out ahead when renting if you are discipline and can invest the money saved while you rent. But not all people can do this.

They see spare change in their account like an expiring gift voucher becoming invalid on Sunday afternoon. They MUST SPEND IT on the weekend with no time to spare! And even though it may be better financially to rent and invest the savings, not everyone has the will power to do this.


Final Thoughts

I think too many people (especially younger people) get caught up in what is ‘normal’ and buy homes young when they don’t even know what they want to do in life. If rent money is dead money than so is interest repayments, which are much higher than rental yields for the majority of Australians.

You do not make money when you buy a house to live in. You may get lucky and sell it at a profit later in life, but you never hear about all the people that sell at a loss, only the ones that triple their money in 4 years (bullshit artists). You shouldn’t be thinking about making money when looking at a home to live in anyway. It’s first and foremost your home to make your own and to raise a family in. If you want to make money, look at actually investing into income producing assets (stocks, bonds, rentals).

Don’t get caught up in the stigma and shame on renting, break down the numbers and work out what actually costs more. If it’s cheaper to buy then by all means go ahead and buy, if it’s cheaper to rent, ignore the misinformed who try to make assumptions that you can’t afford to buy or that you must be doing it wrong.

Try to break out of the Matrix and look at what is best for YOU not what others think is best for you.

Please feel free to share this article around if you know someone who may be tossing up between the two, it may help them decide.

Photo credit: Phil Sexton / / CC BY

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