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Do I buy or just rent a home?

By Njange Maina
Thursday, December 26th, 2019

By People Contributor

I am now of that age where I am being forced to buy a home because of the enormous pressure I get from both peers and family. “Paying rent is like throwing away money,” they say. But is this true, or am I better off just renting a house?

Without a doubt, buying a home makes sense for some folks, but mainly for non-financial reasons. Owning a home gives stability and freedom. You’re not at the mercy of a landlord and you can do what you want with the place. But financially, it’s not always the best option.

Look at it this way. In Nairobi currently, the monthly cost of owning a house is twice as much that of renting one. Sometimes significantly greater! A pretty decent house in Kileleshwa selling at Sh15 million will rent for not more than Sh100,000 per month while the mortgage rates are up to Sh250,000 per month. This gap is scary.

Moreover, when I apply a commonly acceptable formula to confirm this financial sense I get more perturbed. This is how the price-to-rent-ratio (or P/R ratio) works: Say, for example, a house is selling at Sh15 million and the rent is Sh60,000 per month (which works out to Sh720,000 per year). Dividing Sh15 million by Sh720,000, you get a P/R ratio of 20.8.

A rent ratio above 20 means that the monthly costs of ownership will exceed the cost of renting. The higher the P/R ratio, the more it makes sense to rent — and the less it makes sense to buy. The ideal Price/Rent ratio is between 10 and 14 (meaning it would cost between Sh100,000 and Sh150,000 to rent a Sh15 million house).

Two years ago, before the inflationary effects had kicked in, the house now costing Sh15 million was selling for around Sh7 million. At the time, the industry P/R ratio ranged from 10 and 15 (about Sh20,000 to Sh25,000 to rent a Sh4 million house).

This was true for houses in Nyayo High-rise estate. And even when I consider my economic power to buy or rent, I don’t succeed either. Indeed, a comparison of most monthly salaries and the mortgage rates shows a huge mismatch, unless of course home-seekers want to throw all their money into paying for mortgage. So there you have it. Renting it is, I won’t be buying soon, at least for now.

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