Is Renting Better? A Review of the Home Ownership Decision amid Increasing Risk


  • Rob Wolf University of Wisconsin–La Crosse
  • Dale Domian York University



There has always been an avid debate on the merits of owning versus renting a residence. There is a commonly accepted sentiment that owning a home is a wise investment. However, this sentiment is often unproven or supported with non-substantial evidence. The scholarly literature on the buy versus rent decision has conflicting results. Further, recent events in the US residential real estate market suggest increased asset riskiness which may have a dramatic effect on home ownership. Our research uses a capital budgeting model, similar to the lease versus buy analysis, with the output being the present value of buying instead of renting. The present value model includes the difference in cash flows between buying and renting for two standardized holding periods. A key contribution of the paper is a more accurate estimate of required return on equity, the discount rate in our present value model. As real estate values have recently demonstrated greater risk and the capital structure of homeowners may be highly leveraged, the cost of equity is higher than often suggested. The benchmark model uses point estimates for each variable with subsequent models including scenario analysis for key variables. The results suggest buying is better, in the benchmark model as well as scenarios allowing rents, home appreciation, mortgage rates and required return to vary. However, most scenarios show negative present values are possible, which contrasts the historic view that home ownership always has a positive return.




How to Cite

Wolf, Rob, and Dale Domian. 2013. “Is Renting Better? A Review of the Home Ownership Decision Amid Increasing Risk”. Journal of Finance Issues 12 (1):26-34.



Original Article