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Buying vs Renting: It is not a one-size-fits-all solution

Posted on November 9 2023

This article first appeared in Property24 on 08/08/2023 – Deciding whether to buy or rent a home is a pivotal life choice that can significantly impact your financial well-being and lifestyle both in the short and long-term and in uncertain economic times, making the right decision becomes even more critical. View the original article.

READ: What buyers in homeowners’ associations must ask

“The idea of homeownership as the holy grail of adulthood and evidence of success has been ingrained in us for generations and property still remains one of the best long-term investments, so many people are in a quandary about whether to delay the purchase or bite the bullet and get a foot on the property ladder no matter the consequences,” says Cobus Odendaal, CEO of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Johannesburg and Randburg. 

“But it’s not a simple choice as each option offers distinct benefits and drawbacks and with the economic fluctuations, high interest rates and uncertainties that we’re seeing, it’s essential to carefully assess one’s current financial situation and long-term goals before committing to either option.”

Advantages of Ownership:

Building Equity:

One of the most significant advantages of homeownership is building equity. As you make mortgage payments, you are gradually increasing your ownership stake in the property. Over time, this equity can serve as a valuable asset and a potential source of wealth.

Stability and Freedom:

Owning a home provides stability and the freedom to personalize and modify the property to suit your preferences. You have more control over your living space and can make long-term plans without concerns about lease expirations or rent hikes.

Tax Benefits: Homeownership can come with tax advantages, such as deducting mortgage interest and property taxes from your taxable income. These benefits can help reduce your overall tax liability.

Disadvantages of Ownership:

Initial Costs:

Buying a home requires a significant upfront investment, including the down payment, closing costs, and potential home inspections.

Ongoing Expenses:

As a homeowner, you are responsible for all maintenance and repair costs. These expenses can be unpredictable and add to your financial burden.

Market Risks:

The real estate market can be subject to fluctuations, and there is no guarantee that your property will appreciate in value over time.

In an article published on 6 December 2020, Steve van Wyk from Seeff Centurion, said it is quite easy to get side-tracked by financing and transferring issues when buying a property and there, he says it is essential to address the factors below long before the actual buying process starts – and ensure no surprises await you once the transaction has gone through.

Read: First-time homebuyers’ fears – how to overcome them

These are the questions first-time buyers must ask estate agents:

1. Ask the agent for a CMA (Comparative Market Analysis) of the property and ask the agent to explain how the value of the property was determined.

2. Ask the agent about patent defects. Did the seller disclose everything? Make sure that everything is specified in the sales agreement.

3. Ask whether the plans of the property are approved and if there is an undertaking by the seller to provide these plans.

4. Ask if there are any hidden costs, such as the replacement of equipment in the property which is not included in the sale.

5. Ask what exactly is included and not included in the sale and if anything has to be removed and replaced by the seller, and ask for that to be stipulated in the sales agreement.

READ: Exploring property transactions: an A-Z guide

Odendaal also shares the advantages of renting:


Renting offers more flexibility compared to buying. Renters have the freedom to move without the burden of selling a property, making it ideal for those who anticipate frequent relocations.

Lower Upfront Costs:

Renting typically requires a smaller upfront financial commitment compared to buying. Renters may only need to provide a security deposit and first month’s rent, while homebuyers need a down payment, closing costs, and ongoing homeownership expenses.

Limited Financial Risk:

Renters are not directly exposed to potential declines in property value, which can provide a sense of stability in uncertain economic times.

Disadvantages of renting:

No Equity Building:

Unlike homeownership, renting does not provide an opportunity to build equity or own a valuable asset.

Rent Increases:

In some rental markets, landlords may raise rent prices over time, making it harder to budget for housing expenses.

Limited Control:

Renters have limited control over their living space. They may need permission from the landlord to make changes or renovations.

Owning a property is a major a commitment and, although our banks are conservative in terms of their lending, a buyer has to factor in a significant margin to cover changes in market conditions which may leave them under financial pressure,” says Odendaal.

He says that there are a number of factors to consider when deciding:

Financial Readiness:

Evaluate your financial stability, credit score, and ability to afford homeownership expenses, including a down payment and ongoing costs.

Long-Term Goals:

Consider your long-term plans, career aspirations, and lifestyle preferences. Owning a home may align better with certain life stages and goals.

Market Conditions:

Research local real estate market trends and assess whether buying or renting is more advantageous in your area. However, bear in mind that when the market is down, it’s also when one can also find good deals and you may be able to find a property under market value.

Additional Costs and Responsibilities:

Factor in the costs of homeownership, such as property taxes, insurance, maintenance, and potential HOA fees.

READ: Homeowner Associations: What homeowners, tenants and prospective buyers should know

Opportunity Costs:

Consider the opportunity costs of buying or renting. For example, if you choose to buy, the funds tied up in a down payment and ongoing homeownership expenses could be used for other investments or financial goals if you were renting instead.

“While homeownership can be a solid long-term investment, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution and you do not have to own your own home by the age of 30 in order to be considered successful.

“Remember, the goal should not solely be ownership but rather finding a housing solution that best suits your unique circumstances and contributes positively to your overall financial well-being and quality of life,” says Odendaal.

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