Moving to Northern Virginia – Should I rent or buy?
It’s not uncommon for buyers to wonder if renting or buying makes more sense when moving to a new area. Being in an unfamiliar town, and unfamiliar with the state of that real estate market can certainly make anyone question such an important decision. Most have heard all the negative news about the national housing market. There are concerns about the economy, and many know of friends or family who are currently underwater on their mortgages. With all that bad press, I would probably consider renting too.
I will tell you first that you should only consider buying a home if it makes sense for your situation. Can you get financing? Are you planning to live in the area for a while? If it’s possible that you may move in less than 2 years, buying might not be the best choice.
However if you are struggling with whether to rent or buy, I can tell you from personal experience with my recent clients, that 9 times out of 10 buying has made more sense than renting. I have had several clients move to Northern Virginia with the intention of renting, only to find out that our rental inventory is extremely low. The available rentals are not necessarily desirable. Not to mention that Landlords have figured this out and have been steadily increasing rent prices.
Case in point- I had a nice young couple move to the area because of a military relocation. They had a monthly housing allowance of about $2300/month. With both of them expecting to work in Washington, DC, they had a preference for living as close to the city as possible – or at least close to public transportation. They had no children, but had two dogs, and two cats. (Unfortunately, the pet situation was already a strike against them. This limited the possible rentals for them by about a third.)
With a monthly budget of $2300, our rental choices were confined to 2-3 bedroom townhomes, or very outdated older homes. We were looking in mostly the Alexandria area south of the beltway as that location fit their commuting preference. We visited rental after rental only to be disappointed with the location, the condition of the property, the lack of yard for their two dogs, etc. Let’s just say that they were getting extremely frustrated and worried that they were not going to have a decent place to live the next 4 years. At my suggestion, they spoke with a lender about what they could afford if they chose to purchase. They were pleasantly surprised at the amount they qualified for in a mortgage.
To make a long story short – This young couple ended up buying an older single family home with 4 bedrooms, 2 car garage, and a nice size wooded yard for $400,000. The property is located in Springfield. (Just one town over from their original location in Alexandria, but they still have access to the Metro and VRE.)
The beauty of the situation is that their monthly mortgage payment was only $2100. By buying instead of renting, they managed to save $200 monthly and live in a home that made them happy.
The Moral of the story– It pays to consider all your options when moving to Northern Virginia. Renting might seem like the easiest option, but buying may save you money in the long run. It’s also important to consider different locations. Affordability goes up every mile youâ€™re willing to travel outside of the DC Metro Area. Plus, it pays to use a professional to help you navigate all your options. Call the Girls!
Rent a Townhouse or Buy a house…Good Question!