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“Buy or Rent?” is NOT this easy

Posted by Johnine Larsen on November 29, 2018
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Every so often, I’ll find some handy little map or infographic like this. It paints each state as “better to rent,” “better to buy,” or “neutral.”

However, and I cannot stress this enough: Guides like this are useless. Here’s why:

1. State-wide data

These “guides” try to paint the whole state with a broad brush. But the housing market in Seattle couldn’t be more different than the housing market in Neah Bay. Look at your local real estate market for useful information. I don’t mean just city-wide data. You should find data for your specific neighborhood, and even your specific block. Only THAT type of information can give you useful insights for making real estate decisions.

2. Your financial state

The biggest factor in “should you rent or buy?” is you. Can you afford a down payment? How stable is your income for the next 10 years? How’s your credit? If you’re getting a old house, can you afford the upkeep and repairs? What about property taxes? All these questions matter much, much more than a simple comparison between renting and buying costs. Your neighbors don’t have the same job, healthcare costs, or debt as you—how could anyone possibly recommend a real estate decision without knowing those specifics?

3. Non-money factors

Real estate is about so much more than money. Some people hate yardwork and love discovering new cities. Other people love the idea of settling down for life and building their perfect nest. Sure, that nester might save a few thousand dollars by renting—but your dreams and comfort are worth more than that. People are more than their bank accounts. A real estate decision should match both your finances and your hopes, values, and personality.


Real estate infographics that look at huge averages and make suggestions to individual people are useless. This kind of reductionism is like telling someone in Manhattan that they should buy an SUV because the United States has a lot of space and SUVs keep you safe. Yes, the U.S. is large. Should you buy a SUV if you live in Manhattan and hate driving? Of course not.

State-wide metrics on real estate have different uses. They let us know the state of the whole housing market, and they give us a top-level overview of differences between states. But it’s a one-way street—personal information gives us broad conclusions, but you can’t turn around and use those broad conclusions to make personal decisions.

Everyone’s situation is different. Everyone’s smartest real estate decision will be different. And that’s why a real estate agent who takes the time to know your personal situation is so important. When we partner with you to buy or sell a house, we look at the local and hyper-local real estate market, your unique financial situation, and non-money factors like your lifestyle, values, and personal goals.

You’re aren’t the average of all Washingtonians, and your real estate needs aren’t the average of all Washingtonians, either. We help you buy or sell your home.