Rent Vs Buy – The Great Debate

Posted by JHarper on February 12, 2012

Last year the National Association of Realtors (REALTORS) put out a booklet entitled the Field Guide to the Benefits of Home Ownership. It seems a lot of real estate agents were crying to the REALTORS to do something about the implosion of home-ownership in the US.


Now, I don’t blame the REALTORS for trying to help their members (who pay their salaries) but, the booklet seems to insult those that choose to rent over buying a house. Is that how you convince someone to buy a house?


The booklet lists 5 benefits of homeownership and explains each by citing some statistics. Number 1 is the assertion that home-ownership leads to higher academic achievement. I’ll just give that one to them so we can jump on the next one.


Benefit Number 2 is that homeownership results in “More Cohesive Communities” by asserting that homeowners are “28% more likely to repair or improve their home” than renters. Since when did we expect a tenant to repair the landlord’s property? Isn’t that what renting is all about? The tenant pays rent and the landlord keeps the place up, pays the taxes, etc.

I believe a better interpretation of this “statistic” is that 72% of homeowners do not repair or improve their home. Over time that leads to “run-down” neighborhoods. And, I’ll bet that the reason nearly 3 times as many homeowners do not repair or improve their home (vs. those who do) is because they can barely make their mortgage payment!


Some other statements that amuse me are that homeowners:


  • “Are 10% more likely to report that they have worked to solve local problems”. Huh?
  • “Are 9% more likely to know who their school board representatives are”. Given that many renters are single or childless, is this really a surprise? What harm does it cause when 1 out of 11 people do not know who their school board representatives are?
  • Home-owners are 1.3 times more likely to read newspapers. Wow. Maybe the renters are getting their news online (more environmentally-friendly).


The most recent survey cited in the “Field Guide” is from 2007 and three are from 2001 to 2003. Three more of the surveys were done between 1994 and 1997. Yet, this booklet was copyrighted in 2011. I guess you just pick and choose where you get your information these days. In any event, all of the surveys were done prior to the collapse of the housing market in 2008.


Now before anyone gets any ideas, I am not bashing homeownership. What I am trying to stop (it’s hopeless, I know) is the notion that everyone must own a home. And, because someone chooses renting over owning a house does not make them stupid or a criminal. However, after reading the Field Guide to the Benefits of Home Ownership, you might be left with that impression of renters. You can check it out for yourself by downloading a free copy of the Field Guide at:


I will be posting more on the rent vs. buy debate, soon. This post is brought to you by Cornerstone Apartment Communities . Thanks for stopping by. – Jeff H.