Is it always better to buy than rent?

The Real Estate Institute of Western Australia reported recently that housing affordability has improved over the last year and that median rents have climbed by 12%.

So, for many people renting a question they are asking themselves is: “would we be better off to buy?”

Current data shows that in Perth, the median purchase price for first-home buyers is around $420,000 while metropolitan rents are around $470 per week.

Not everyone is in a position to borrow and meet loan repayments, but for those singles and couples who can afford around $580 a week at current variable interest rates, a mortgage of $373,000 will buy a very suitable unit, villa or house with its own land.

(In this example I am assuming a deposit of $20,000 and eligibility for the $7,000 first-home owners grant, so the purchase price would be $400,000.

However, there are many cheaper properties throughout WA including the metropolitan area. Some house and land packages are accessible at $300,000 or less and fixed rates can be more affordable than variable rates).

In other words, by paying around $100 more each week on a mortgage as opposed to paying rent, many tenants could transition to home ownership if that suited them and banks approved the loan.

Naturally, the bigger the deposit the smaller the loan and it’s important to keep in mind that renters don’t pay council rates, annual utility charges, building insurance and maintenance which home owners do. Buyers need to factor in about $50 per week to cover this.

The real cost of renting is not the fortnightly payments, but the loss in savings compared to accumulating equity in a home.

There are also good financial reasons to support ownership, but two key factors illustrate its benefit.

First, home ownership can be a stepping stone to increased wealth and long term financial security. Property is highly regarded by financial institutions as security for borrowing to fund a property investment, a business venture or a holiday.

It’s more difficult to borrow against other assets.

Second, home ownership opens up lifestyle opportunities. With your own place you can design and mature the garden, paint and decorate as you wish, have pets (with some strata exceptions) and generally create a home with the liberty and security that can bring.

Households which experience financial difficulty in retirement years are more likely to be living in rental properties, so investing in a home can be a better way to secure your retirement circumstances.

The early decisions you make around real estate can affect your long term outlook, but it’s strongly advisable that you discuss your plans with competent financial advisers, banks and lenders before making a decision and then approaching an agent.

David Airey is president of the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia. This article was originally published on

David Airey

David Airey

David Airey is president of the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia.

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