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Do I sign a lease...OR...Buy a home?
There are a number of things to consider when you're ready to make a move. If you've been a tenant before, you know the drill. At the end of the lease, you tell yourself, I know I should buy a home but, instead of a down payment, I'd really like to: get a dog or cat/take that 4 week trip to Costa Rica/buy that new car/motorcycle/boat.
A down payment on a home isn't cheap. Neither is the combination of first month, last month, security deposit and rental fee. Moving isn't fun, and it costs money. That is reality. However, this can also bee seen as an opportunity. For some people, a move is needed because they've outgrown their current home. Maybe the loud neighbors upstairs keep you up until 2am on a Wednesday. Maybe your landlord raised the rent 25% and you need to leave based on principle alone. Even the most perfect of tenants, have their reasons for moving at some point.
Being a tenant is pretty straightforward. Look through the listings. Choose a place. Polish your application and credit score, put on some nice clothes and a smile. Say your please and thank you's and hope the landlords accept you before somebody better shows up. Pay the rent on time and live by their rules. Simple enough. However, if, and when you decide to buy, you are faced by some other questions...
Do I go condo, single family or multi-family?
There are pros and cons to each. In a condo, you share chores and expenses. You also share walls and outdoor space. In a single family home, it's all on you. All the freedoms, all the rights...and yes, all the responsibilities, such as landscaping, snow removal, water bills, etc. A multi-family home works for some people, especially if they are handy. You can apply the rental values of the "other" unit(s) toward your mortgage. As an owner occupant in Boston, you are entitled to a tax break. Many multi-family homes in the Boston area today end up being converted to condos, or apartments for rent.
In all likelihood, the first home you buy will not be your last. Most people end up between 5-7 years in their first home. If you plan on moving again, within a year or two, stick to renting. If you think you could stay put for at least 4 years, and have some money for a down payment, you should be looking to buy.