General housing: Is it better to rent or buy?

When moving every four years due to the military, is it more advantageous to rent or to buy?

Please provide your comments and ideas. I just moved and am trying to decide to either rent or buy a place… 4 bedroom home, will be here four years…

4 years is a long time. Might not seem like it, but it is.

I would only rent if you were talking 1 year or less in a place. By buying you will get the tax breaks and be in long enough for the tax break on the sale.

You have 4 years of possible appreciation, even if it is minimal it is better than zip.

You have 4 years to make the place like you want it with no restrictions.

Make your money when you buy. Try to get a good price.

If you don’t know an area at all, you could rent a place in the area and then buy if you like the area.


I’m retired military. If I was ‘permanent party’ (i.e., not at a base going to school), I ALWAYS bought a home. In 20 years, I NEVER lost money on real estate. I almost did in Utah – we had a house built and four months later, I was selected for Warrant Officers’ school. But, I still made a few bucks.

In the ‘early’ years, it was small houses that needed some TLC…paint, carpet cleaning, yard work —> nice house, sells quick! Later, it was a little nicer. Now I have a beautiful place and some rental properties.

Have you owned before?

It is also kinda nice to draw a tax free housing allowance and then be able to declare the interest and taxes on your income taxes!


We bought in OKC with a VA loan, thinking the tour would be 18months and it ended up being 2+years. We closed and made out ok.
We rented in Pensacola for just under 2 years, and kicked ourselves the entire time… there were two or three homes that we talked about buying, but didn’t. Thing is, Hurricane Ivan came through and any home still in good condition afterwards was instantly worth about 50K more than before… shoot there were families renting three and four apartments so they could have housing. We left there with nothing but less $ in our wallets and disappointment from having rented.
We are currently looking at a nice 4 bedroom home in TX. The houses across the street have a field that has been zoned for multi-family units and that has us a bit nervous for resale purposes. We most likely will not do another VA loan, and are looking for other funding options like 80/20.
Other forums, like Dave Ramsey’s followers say not to buy until 20% down and the payment is less than 25% of takehome pay… this would put us out for about 5 years to save the $ and then into a smaller home to keep within the 20% down price range… does it seem reasonable?

I tend to look at the home as an investment over four years… not sure about those future multi-family units coming in and potentially lowering the values of the homes…