March 17, 2011
Deciding used to be simple—buying a home always made sense. Then the bubble burst.
The comparative advantages of buying versus renting aren’t easy to figure, though. Numerous websites offer calculators that have the user enter the requisite data and supposedly learn which course to pursue. But Russell James, who teaches personal finance at Texas Tech University, has researched these online tools and found them unreliable. When he plugged the same information into the top 10 online calculators, eight advised him to buy and two told him to rent. “At one extreme, I was told buying would save me around $61,500,” he reported, “and at the other end, I was told renting would save me $15,000.”