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When renting a home beats buying one

Renting in retirement can provide the flexibility needed for older adults. By selling your property, you gain liquid assets and a source of income that you didn’t have before. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)
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There are a lot of reasons someone may choose to rent rather than buy a home. But everyone’s circumstances are different and what works for one person may not work for you.

The decision to rent or buy may depend on what phase of life you are in.

Here are some points to consider when weighing whether to rent or buy:

· Getting started: For young professionals establishing themselves in their career, it often makes sense to rent since they typically don’t have enough money saved for a down payment, are potentially paying off student loan debt or may be planning to move in the next three to five years.

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Renting offers the flexibility to move easily and the ability to pay down debt and begin saving for the future. There is a low upfront cost, which is appealing to someone starting out with little to no savings. Renting can also mean lower insurance costs, little to no maintenance costs and financial flexibility. Often, rentals can be found in vibrant areas popular with young people and offer amenities such as gyms and pools without the responsibility of upkeep or maintenance.

· Settling in and settling down: When you reach a place where you plan to stay in the same area for at least five years, buying a home begins to be a better fit. Over five or more years, you have time to offset closing costs and build equity. While you can’t always assume home appreciation, living there for a longer period allows time for prices to rise.

Buying a home has other benefits such as helping with taxes and giving you a sense of stability. The first-time home buyer tax credit no longer exists, but there are still other ways to benefit, including the mortgage interest deduction that allows you to deduct interest from mortgages up to $750,000.

· In retirement: Deciding whether to rent or buy a home when you’re retired is a bit more complicated. Many older adults are not amenable to renting. People who have owned a home most of their lives may feel a stigma attached to renting.

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However, renting in retirement can provide the flexibility needed for older adults. By selling your property, you gain liquid assets and a source of income that you didn’t have before. Also, if you move to a new area you’re not familiar with, renting, at least at first, is a smart option to ensure that you are happy where you are.

Renting is a great option for downsizing. As you get older, renting can mean less maintenance and physical strain. It can also simplify your estate planning needs. If you sell your home, that’s one less estate planning liability heirs have to handle.

Deciding whether to rent or buy is a complex decision that can be greatly affected by where you are in your life. The most important thing, no matter your age, is to compare the complete costs of both options and make sure you’re saving appropriately to reach your home goals.

David Mount is a director and portfolio manager with the Wise Investor Group at Baird in Reston, Va. Baird does not provide tax or legal advice.