College Connect: To rent or to buy: that is the millennial question

Posted By David Wilhite

By Kristen Rary

Caroline Wrenn is living her dream.

The recent graduate’s husband was drafted by a Major League Baseball team and will finish school in the off season. All of the couple’s plans are falling into place. But they have one big issue: where to live.

“My husband is a professional baseball player so we will be moving a lot throughout the year. The players can be traded, promoted, or released, at any time, meaning we could always be moved to another city,” she said. “We didn’t want the financial obligation of a mortgage when we wouldn’t be able to live in the house.”

Figuring out where to live after graduation can be a daunting task. Employed or not, students have to figure out where they want to go, what they can afford, and who they want to live with. Some students may be able to move back in with their families, but for others that may not be an option. The question then becomes a choice between house or apartment, buy or rent, long-term or short-term.

Matt Goren, who teaches personal finance at the University of Georgia, said the choices students make when deciding where to move after school can change their lives. Students who choose to make large investments post-graduation are at risk of long term debt, so buying a home is not necessarily a good idea.

“They don’t have the credit score that’s decent to get the lower interest rate. Again, it’s not that they can’t do it, it’s that they shouldn’t do it,” he said. “They might be locking themselves into decades of much higher monthly payments.”

Goren said it’s safer to find something suitable for the realistic lifestyle expectations that a first post-grad job could afford. Wrenn seemed to agree.

“If baseball wasn’t a factor, I would most likely want to rent a house. I prefer a house over an apartment, because it feels more cozy, and it is less of a commitment than buying a house,” she said.

According to Goren, Wrenn and her husband are making the right choice. He recommended renting over buying, but also recommended students give an area a test run before committing to it.

“When you’re moving to a new city… rent for a short period of time first, so that might mean do an Airbnb or something like that and just getting yourself out there… and that’s especially true if it’s an expensive housing market,” he said.

Renting an apartment or home can be a safe financial move if the leasing period does not lock someone in for too long and the person’s salary can cover the monthly rent and utilities. Goren said Wrenn is acting wisely given her situation, and recommended other recent graduates follow her example.

“With the nature of our generation, I think buying a house is a strong commitment when you have other options. Most people change jobs too much to buy a house,” Wrenn said.

Kristen Rary is a student at the University of Georgia.

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