The Case for Renting Before Buying a Home

A real estate agent works with her most challenging client yet -- herself.

  • By Stephanie Freedman
  • October 30, 2013

Couple moves into new home.

As a real estate agent, I encounter many clients who know exactly what they want. They come to me with a specific request — to buy, sell or rent. But it’s not always that cut-and-dry. In fact, I recently finished working with my most challenging couple to date: my husband and myself. We couldn’t decide whether to buy or rent our next home.
We listed the first property we ever owned in late February, had it under agreement by early May and, after a fairly smooth settlement, said goodbye to more than a decade of city living. With one daughter under 3, another on the way and both of us working mostly from our two-bedroom condo, something had to give.
I wasn’t ready to move to the suburbs, but my husband was on a different page. What he really wanted was space. And land. I wanted a great location and, well, the city.
With interest rates rising and the scales about to tip from a buyer’s market to a more-even playing field, the real estate agent in me was ready to be on the lookout for our next purchase.  But my gut was telling me that our disagreement about what comes next and our financial situation indicated that wasn’t the right move.
Time was running out, and we needed to start our search. In a typical first meeting with clients, I’d facilitate a discussion about the big picture, including financial situation, lifestyle, wish list and expectations. I’d give a breakdown of the bottom line including closing costs — anywhere from 2 to 6 percent of the sale price, monthly mortgage payments, which could include a 1-percent penalty if less than 20 percent is put down, and initial deposits. Next, I’d pull up potential listings to give a sense of options, leading to a more realistic game plan. 

I did that for us, too. However, when you’re emotionally involved in the process, it’s a challenge to be objective and it takes a little longer for a clear picture to emerge. 

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