The only things this terrific New York Times calculator seems not to take into account are the truly “soft” factors.  Like: what psychic value, if any, do you place on owning your own home?  Or, for that matter, on the freedom you get from not owning your own home?  (Fewer responsibilities; easier to pick up and move.)  Like: how much more, if at all, do you prefer the house or condo you are looking to buy to the one (with that great view!) you might rent?  Like: how much will the discipline of a mortgage payment help you to save for the future (“forced saving”), as after 15 or 30 years, you’ll own the home free and clear?  Will you really take whatever cash you save by renting and invest it for 15 or 30 years?  Or will it go to a more lavish wedding for your daughter or a daily skimmed latte?

The one “hard” factor perhaps missing is, “how much higher (or lower) will mortgage rates be when you ultimately do decide to buy instead of rent?”  It’s impossible to know, of course — but so are several other relevant variables this calculator asks you to assign values to.  And the answer could be, “a lot,” which would be one  more reason to buy now, if there’s a reasonable chance you might be staying put for a long time.

All that said, the Times has done a great job with this.  Just answering its quesions is an excellent way to think through all the variables, even as “your gut” ultimately makes the call.



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