Renting vs. Buying a Home: Which Is Smarter?

Considerations include your age, stress level and investment outlook.

Rent or buy home composite
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[Read: 5 Ways Renters Can Sock Away More Money.]

How old are you? If you're in your 20s or even your early 30s, there are some excellent arguments for not buying a house. Not that you aren't responsible enough to be a homeowner, but you're young, and who knows where life will take you? If you have a house, however, you may find that life can't take you to all that many interesting places.

For instance, a recent study from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom found that when countries start seeing a climb in homeownership, unemployment rates start trending upward within five years. Why? It may have something to do with homeowners not wanting to move somewhere else to find a job.

"The decision to own versus rent is very much a lifestyle decision as it is an economic decision. In most cases, it is driven by household formation – people getting married, starting families and being able to afford to do so," says Hollis Greenlaw, CEO of United Development Funding, a publicly registered, non-traded real estate investment trust in Grapevine, Texas. "Less than 40 percent of people under 35 years of age own homes, over 60 percent of people over 35 years of age own homes, and over 80 percent of people over 65 years of age own homes."

[See: How to Improve Your Finances at Every Age.]

Indeed, DeGaris is 49, and while he says that "professionally, renting has served me well because I had the mobility to change jobs, which really helped advance my career," he is glad he finally bought his first house.

"There's a certain feeling of groundedness that comes with owning," DeGaris says. "That might not be rational, but it's palpable. The gutters need work but the roof still doesn't leak, so at this point, I'm still glad I made the move."

So what's the answer to whether it's smarter to rent or buy? It probably won't be a surprise to most people, especially those with several decades behind them. But as a general rule, the older you are, the more likely that it's smarter for you to buy a house. The younger you are, the better off you are being a renter.