I've been fairly happy renting thus far in my life. At 26 years old, I've never really contemplated owning my own place until now. My rental costs have varied greatly over the years...
2004-2005: Chicago, 2br apartment shared w/ 3 people in a nice area. I lived in the living room w/ a curtain for a door for $460 a month. I think some utilities were included in that too.
2005: lived in DC, where I rented a room with a semi-private bath for $800 / month. Utilities were included. Then I moved to California, where my first place was "free" but it was really part of my internship stipend. Soon after I moved again... to a 4br, 2ba apartment shared with 3 other girls (and their friends on occasion) for $480 / month. When I got a full-time job, I decided I deserved my own place, even though I was making about $35k per year. So I found a studio with utilities included for $900 / month. In a year, the rent for that studio went up to $1100 / month. Even though I knew this was a lot, I didn't want to deal with moving and I liked where I lived. So I stayed one year. Then they raised the rent to $1350 / month and I decided to leave the apartment complex and look for a more affordable, room-share situation. I found a place in a nice condo complex for rent with a smaller personal living area but a nicer all-around apartment for $635 / month plus utilities split between myself and two other girls.
The problem is that now I live far from my job so the cost of the monthly commute is about $230 / month for parking at the public transit station plus the train, and that's not including the gas it costs me to get to and from the train. So... you could say now I'm spending $300 / month on transportation, or $1000 / month on "rent" including transportation and utilities. So I ask myself... should I move? If I do move, how much should I pay for a place? While my roommates and I aren't best friends, we get along fairly well, and I've gone through my share of roomie nightmares in the past, so I'm not in the mood to get into any of that mess while just getting into the jive of things at my new job. Still, the cost of the commute plus the actual commute (about 1 hour 15 minutes each way) will eventually get to me. I could even find a place that costs the same or cheaper slightly closer to work... maybe 30 minutes closer... because there are some areas that are not as nice as where I live now that are on the way towards the public transportation stations. I really should be living there. But I just don't want to deal with moving.
Then, the idea always pops in my mind... what about buying a home? Well, that's really not possible right now... the average costs of a 1br condo here are like $600,000. Given that I only have $50k in savings at the moment... it will take me a long time before I could even afford a down payment on that. And the more I think about it, the more I realize owning a home... at least in this area... may never make any sense. It's just too expensive. I look at how much my parents still pay for their house after all these years in mortgage and property taxes and homeowners insurance and think, wow, I should really just rent forever.
Of course, when I have kids one day, I guess it would be nice to own a home. I liked growing up in one place all my life... I think it would have been really tough to move around a lot, being as shy as I was. Then again, lots of families move a lot and they do just fine. And you don't have to move all the time in a rental, you just never know when your landlord will decide they need you to leave. I guess that on its own is enough reason to consider owning. But really, how can anyone afford home ownership here? This year I've hit six figures... I may even make $150k this year, and that isn't near enough for me to own a condo or a home in this area. I think I'd have to be making something like $300k / year before I could even really consider owning.
Do you own a home? Do you rent? What's your monthly cost for owning or renting? Why do you own... or rent?