Should You Rent or Own in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania?

Part of the American dream is to own a home. Unfortunately, the dream can quickly turn to a nightmare if a person invests in a “money pit.” Whether new to the area or a long-time resident of Pittsburgh, many wonder if they should rent or buy their abode. Those who want to build wealth and give their credit score a significant boost should take on the role of a homeowner. However, it all comes down to lifestyle and finances.

Pittsburgh is Rental Territory

recent study was conducted that looked at 23 cities across America. Pittsburgh was one of the 16 that fell into what was called rent territory. Being in “rent territory” means that renting is wiser and will help with wealth creation. Though the entire country has shifted to ownership territory, it wasn’t always this way. Back in 1999, the rental market was booming. People who wanted to make long term commitments by purchasing a home, however, plummeted.

Home Ownership Demands Drive Prices Up

The demand for ownership has decreased in some major cities throughout the United States. Places like Atlanta, Houston, Kansas City, and Miami have all seen a decrease in home sales and an increase in rentals. As more people look to rentals for their housing needs, it puts pressure on the housing prices to decrease. Part of the reason why rentals are up in some areas is that prices hit all-time highs and the inventory selection was low.

During the first part of 2018, homes on the market in the Pittsburgh area took an eight percent increase in price. Additionally, there was a ten percent increase in home volume sales. The cost of a home has a significant impact on shifting a market from a renting territory to an ownership one. If homes are affordable, then many people want to invest in something that they can own. However, if the home prices are inflated, many feel that renting is a great way to save money before making such a commitment as homeownership.

The Final Decision

As with any area, the decision to rent or own in Pittsburgh often comes down to financial comforts for each individual person. For some, it’s more attractive to have a landlord pay for repairs, taxes and insurance, while also avoiding the large initial down payment. Others are ready to make the financial commitment to have a place that’s all their own.

A financial advisor or real estate professional can be a great resource for people who are on the fence between renting and owning.

I originally discussed this topic at JasonCohenPittsburgh.org.

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Looking to Sell Your Home? Become a Landlord Instead!

When a person owns a home and decides that it’s time to upgrade or relocate to another area, they have a big decision to make. Should they sell their old home or turn it into a rental property? To answer that question, it’s important to analyze all of the factors that are involved. Here are five of them to consider:

What Does The Cash Flow Look Like? 
The first factor that should be examined is if a property will produce a positive cash flow when it’s rented out. If the rental income is more than expenses like taxes, monthly mortgage, insurance, vacancy, utilities, repairs, etc., it will be profitable and may be a good candidate for creating rental income.

Considering Taxes
The Internal Revenue Service allows homeowners to avoid paying taxes on the sale of their home if it has been their primary residence and they have lived in it for a minimum of two of the last five years. This is based on sales that are at least $500,000 when married and $250,000 for individuals who are single. On most capital gains, an individual has to pay taxes that are equal to as much as 20 percent of the sales price.

Tough Markets
By renting out a home, it leaves a back-up plan during times when it would be difficult to sell. For example, if a person gets a job offer in a new city and the value of their house is currently below what they paid, they’d have to bring cash to the table. By renting, it would give them time to see if the market can recover.

Handling Tenants
Another consideration that should be analyzed is if a person wants to actually become a landlord. While there are a number of good tenants, some individuals require patience and time to deal with. There is always the option of using a professional property management company to handle everything, but that would cut into your bottom line.

How Does The Future Look?
If the future for appreciation looks bright, a person may want to keep their home, rent it out, and see if its value escalates in the next three, five or ten years. While no one has a crystal ball and can accurately forecast this, a person can gauge if growth is possible. Are current homes being renovated? Are retail buildings being constructed in the same location? These type of indicators are positive signs that the value of a home could appreciate in the future.

For more real estate blogs, check out my professional website. 

How to Rent an Apartment for the First Time

There are certain benefits to renting an apartment instead of buying a home, including free maintenance, access to communal facilities and no long-term commitment. However, it’s important for prospective tenants to choose the right apartment. The following tips can help first-time renters select the best apartment for their needs.

 

Set a Budget

 

Prospective tenants should first set a budget by determining exactly how much they can afford to pay in rent each month. According to Quicken, a good rule of thumb is to pay no more than 25 percent of income before tax on rent. If a tenant earns $3,000 per month, for example, his or her monthly rent should be no higher than $750. However, this estimate is a suggestion, not a hard-and-fast rule; if a tenant has other significant monthly expenses, they might be better off choosing an apartment that costs well under 25% of their total income.

 

Consider Location

 

The location of an apartment will affect the cost of rent, accessibility to other businesses and the tenant’s daily commute. Apartments outside of the city are usually cheaper than those within the city, but this can also make daily commutes longer. Therefore, prospective tenants should choose an apartment that’s within a reasonable driving distance from their place of work.

 

Look at Multiple Apartments

 

When searching for their first apartment, prospective tenants should look at least five properties. Even if one apartment offers all the right amenities and is within the tenant’s budget, others may offers better features at an even lower price. The only way a prospective tenant will know, however, is by considering multiple properties.

 

Consider Security

 

How secure is the apartment complex? Prospective tenants should consider security features like perimeter fencing, gates, video surveillance, patrols and alarm systems.

 

What About a Roommate?

 

To help offset the cost of living in an apartment, prospective tenants should consider getting a roommate. Assuming it’s allowed, this can reduce the cost of reduce the cost of rent by up to 50 percent. If a tenant decided to get a roommate, though, he or she should carefully vet the person to ensure they are capable of paying their share of the rent and utilities.

 

Review the Lease Agreement

 

Arguably, one of the most important steps in renting an apartment for the first time is reviewing the lease agreement. This is the legally binding document that explains the terms of rental. When reviewing the lease agreement, prospective tenants should look at the duration, security deposit and the fee for breaking the lease.

*Originally posted on JasonCohenPittsburgh.net

Common Rental Terms Every Tenant Should Know

Property descriptions can be difficult to muddle through, especially for first-time or young applicants. When it comes to apartment rentals, there are a number of terms that get thrown around; here, I provide a few handy definitions and explanations to help newcomers acclimate to the vocabulary.

 

Utilities Included

Utilities” is a blanket term that typically refers to basics such as electricity, water, and sewer and trash services. However, the term can sometimes include extra expenses such as heat, snow removal, cable, and Internet – although a tenant should never assume that any in the latter list are covered. Often, a landlord will specify which utilities are included in the rent and which are left to the tenant to pay. If the landlord doesn’t specify which expenses are folded into rent and which aren’t, be sure to ask for clarification before signing a lease. Note that in some cases, the landlord will agree to cover a specific bill up to a certain dollar amount and leave the tenant responsible for the remaining balance.

Pet-Friendly

When a landlord lists a home or apartment as “pet-friendly,” they aren’t guaranteeing a home for all types of animals. For example, a landlord might be willing to consider a bird or cat, but turn away someone with a large dog. In all cases, the tenant should assume that only well-behaved pets will be welcome. Check to see if a pet deposit or pet rent is required in addition to the usual security deposit to cover any damage the pet may have caused.

 

Amenities and Amenity Fees

Amenities refer to the perks of residing in the home or apartment – say, a large deck for entertaining, or wood-burning fireplace. Amenity fees generally appear in upscale buildings that offer an unusually high number of benefits to residents, such as a swimming pool or an on-site gym equipment. Check the fine print of your lease for information on what’s included and assess whether the cost is worth the benefits.

 

Application Fee

Landlords will often run a criminal background check on applicants through an online service such as BeenVerified. The fees for these services are then passed on to the applicant. Note that the application fee might also serve as a sort of initial refundable deposit on the property. If so, the landlord might just be holding it until the background check is complete – but you should always  ask the landlord rather than assuming one way or the other.

 

Furnished vs. Unfurnished

If an advertisement lists the space as “furnished,” this could mean only that the rental includes a single bed and a table and chairs, or that every room is fully decked out and complete with curtains. If this is a concern, ask for details and the landlord’s expectations before setting up a time to view the property.

 

*Originally posted on JasonCohenPittsburgh.net