Shall I Buy or Rent?
The question that will be uppermost in the minds of many people seeking better homes after the war is—shall I buy or rent?
For the average person, who has only several hundred or a few thousand dollars to invest, this is a difficult matter to decide. There are arguments for and against home buying.
The majority of Americans in cities and towns live in rented houses or apartments. Although the popularity of home ownership gained steadily in the 40 years before 1929, the depression sharply checked that trend. Thus, in 1890 about 37 out of every 100 families in nonfarm areas owned their own homes.
This ratio rose to 41 out of 100 in 1920 and to 46 in 1930. By 1940 it had gone to only 41 from the 1934 low of about 40. Relatively more people in small towns own their homes than do those in large cities. Also home ownership is more common on farms than in nonfarm areas, although the proportion of farmer-owners has been falling off for a long time. That is, in 1890, 66 out of every 100 farmers—2 out of 3—owned their farmhouses. In 1940 only 53 out of every 100 of them did—just a little more than half.
Why do so many Americans rent instead of buy houses? The main reasons are (1) houses cost a lot; (2) home buying is, under present conditions, so risky that the buyer with an uncertain income stands to lose his investment if he cannot keep up the mortgage payments.