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Should I rent or buy?

There are a few important things to consider before deciding whether to rent or buy a property.

Consider: Cost of renting vs. buying

In Boston proper in January 2020, the median rent for a 2-bedroom apartment was $2,120 (according to site Apartment List). Cambridge and Somerville saw the median rent for a 2-bedroom place increase from 2019, to $2,310 and $2,200, respectively.

Even towns outside of Boston like Malden and Salem saw jumps in their rents, with Malden’s 2-bedroom rental at $1,950 and Salem’s at $1,800. Malden is a 20 minute drive to downtown Boston, and Salem is a 42 minute drive to downtown Boston. Rents overall are increasing, and not just in Boston proper.

In the Bay Area, Sacramento has some of the last remaining affordable apartments. But Sacramento lies 90 miles outside of San Francisco, where most Bay Area tech jobs are headquartered. It’s not just in the cities where apartments are becoming less and less affordable.

Consider: The down payment for buying

Depending on the financing you choose, your down payment could be 0% of the purchase price to 20% or more.

For many people, the down payment can hinder their ability to purchase a property. The median home sale price in Massachusetts in 2019, according to a report by, was $476,000, with a median down payment of $76,500 (16%). In order to save that down payment of $76,500 in one year, a buyer would need to sock away $6,323 per month.

To see median home sale prices by zip code, look at the Torii Monthly Market Report.

The rental equivalent of a down payment is often first, last and security, or 3 months’ rent. In some cases, the rental requirements (approximately $6,600 down on a $2,200 apartment) can exceed the down payment on a mortgage.

It is the down payment that can cause most people to be unable to purchase a home, even when they can afford the monthly mortgage payments. If you aren’t sure what your down payment should be, you can talk with one of our trusted lending partners who can discuss your specific situation. Just email us and ask for an intro!

Consider: Flexibility to move

Obviously, renting has more flexibility for a tenant versus buying a property. That tenant, however, may see rents rising year after year as property values rise and landlords see opportunity for higher income.

Once you have purchased a property, it might be more difficult to move quickly, depending on the market conditions. Someone who purchased a home in 2007, for example, probably purchased at the height of the market and was unable to make money if sold in, say, 2010. It’s important, though, to look at where the property is: If you’re buying in Somerville, Medford, Malden, or any town in the suburbs of Boston, you’re probably more likely to have an investment on your hands that would be easy to sell in the current market. This is because more and more Millennials are being priced out of the city, moving them farther into the suburbs where they can still commute to work but can better afford the properties available.

Consider, too, that in the current market, properties sell fast and often above asking price. You can see relevant data in our Monthly Market report, which is broken out by zip code.

The short story

There are benefits to both renting and buying, but if you know that you want to be in the same area for 3-5 years and can manage a down payment, it’s worth considering buying over renting.

If you’re unsure whether you should buy or continue to rent, ask us for an intro to one of our lending partners who can discuss your specific situation with you.

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