Buy or Rent a Home as a Freelancer?
Like many of us, I was told growing up that the ultimate plan was to purchase a home and settle-down. I even remember being told that buying a home was a solid investment because there is only so much land to be bought. And, for years, I was sold on the belief that buying a home was a necessity.
Of course, life doesn’t always go as you initially planned.
While I did at one point own a home, I sold it and have been renting a place since after it became too expensive to afford on my freelance income,
That’s not to deter my fellow freelancers from ever purchasing a home. It just depends on the circumstances. For me, a single guy, I didn’t need to own a home right now. I would rather make, and then save, more of my income right now so I can pay off my debt. Maybe down the road I’ll consider buying a home, but for the time being, I’m cool with renting.
As someone who has seen both sides of the buying or renting a home argument, here are eight questions that you should answer before making any final decisions.
What’s your income situation?
This can get tricky for freelancers. There have been certain periods where there has been very little work, which has obviously made paying bills a bit tougher, and then other times when I’ve had more than money to survive.
If you don’t have a stable income, purchasing a home is going to be more challenging than renting a place out. Not only because you have to cover the mortgage, but also because you’ll need to prove your income.
Having yourself a couple of anchor clients could help resolve this concern.
Do you have reliable employment?
Again, freelancers are sometimes uncertain about their employment situation. If you’re just living paycheck from paycheck, then buying a home shouldn’t be a priority. Instead, you should be focusing on building a rapport with the clients that you have so that you can have a steady, reliable.
For example, when I lost a high-paying client last year, I was able to turn to another client to pick up more work. In the end, I was making the same, if not more, money each month so losing that client didn’t harm my income all that much.
How is your credit?
You’re obviously going to need decent credit to purchase a home. To secure a FHA loan, for example, you’ll have to have a minimum FICO score of 580 to qualify. If you don’t have the best of credit, you can still be eligible. You’ll have to put down a 10% down payment.
Do you have enough for a down payment?
Speaking of down payments, even if you have outstanding credit, you’ll still need to have a 3.5% down payment with a Federal Housing Administration mortgage.You may be able to find more competitive rates, but if you’re planning on a buying a home, you’re going to need to have something set aside for a down payment.
How long do you plan on living in the area?
If you don’t plan on staying in the area for more than five years, then renting may be better option. While plans change, maybe your spouse just got an excellent job position across the country, it makes sense to stick around in order to recoup transactions costs or possibly generate a return on your investment.
What are the monthly costs compare?
This is where some basic, and realistic, math comes into the picture. Let’s say that you’re spending $1,000 per month on rent and can get a mortgage payment for $1,100 a month. At first, spending the extra hundred bucks on a place that you own may make sense, but have you taken into account expenses like property taxes, heat, insurance, and utility costs? Compare each and every expense for both options.
Are you cool with handling home maintenance tasks and costs?
I personally enjoyed doing some light home repair like painting and mowing the yard. But, when an appliance breaks or your heat goes out in the middle of the winter, that’s when you curse yourself for becoming a homeowner.
If you can’t handle, both stress-wise or financially, all of the minor and major maintenance that your home requires, then renting is definitely a better option. Remember, when something goes wrong, it’s up to you to fix it. There isn’t a landlord to call.
Could your money be spend more wisely elsewhere?
If you just dropped your entire savings on a down payment you no longer have that money sitting in an account and making interest. But, what if you took that money and put it towards paying off your student loans or credit card debit? If you were debt-free, it would make paying a mortgage more manageable.
Tips for Buying or Renting as Freelancer
Regardless of you’re buying or renting, there are several common measures that you should take to make the process easier for you.
- Improve your credit. Both mortgage companies and landlords are going to run a credit check.
- Keep your financial records organized. You’re going to need to prove your income, so make sure that you tax returns (you’ll need the previous three years for buying), bank statements, W-2s, pay stubs, and client contracts prepared to go.
- Have a reference letter handy from a previous landlord.
- Hire a real estate agent. While you usually enlist a real estate to help you purchase a home, you can also use them when looking for apartments.
- Be open-minded. Don’t sell yourself on the first place you visit. There could be more affordable options, even if it’s not in the area you preferred.