Rent vs. Buy: An Expat Dilemma

by | Feb 17, 2022 | Global | 1 comment

Will you become number 9,000,001?

Or 9,000,002 if you’re bringing a spouse? More, if you’ve got young kids.

And if you’re moving abroad, I trust you won’t forget your kids. Home Alone has already been done.

And because you’re reading this article, I assume you’re on your way to joining the other nine million Americans living overseas.

This astounding estimate of the number of expats comes from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs Report for the Fiscal Year of 2015.

Nine million? That’s more than the population of New Jersey!

Don’t worry, it’s a big world; there is plenty of room for more expats. And if you’ve made your decision to join the multitude of others, the next major question has possibly already entered your mind…

When I get to my host country, should I buy, or should I rent a place? An apartment? A casa?

No, mi casa no es tu casa. (My house is not your house.)

You’ll want to find your own house or apartment, which is not terribly difficult given the healthy supply of comfortable and reasonably priced places in enchanting countries such as Mexico and Ecuador.

The following is a guide that could help you decide if buying or renting in a foreign country is best for you:

Reasons to Buy

  • You’ve fallen completely in love with the country (or someone that lives there!) and you know in your heart you’ll never leave. It’s got everything you need; this is the place for you.
  • You’re concerned about rising home and apartment prices there, and you want to lock in now before they go up too much.
  • You can decorate it however you want.
  • You can let your friends and family stay there.
  • You can rent it out as a short-term rental if you’re going to be traveling.
  • Or you can rent out a room through Airbnb. Having a stranger sharing your house might not seem so bad when you get paid a little extra cash for it.
  • You can rent it out long-term if you’ve moved to another city or to one of Latin America’s fantastic beaches. The entire world is your playground – especially if you’ve got some income from your house to help you enjoy it.
  • You don’t like paying rent because that’s just throwing money away. Why should you give your equity to a landlord?

Now for the other side of the debate…

Reasons to rent

  • You want to try the expat life, but you’re not sure if you want to make it a lifetime proposition.
  • Maybe your initial locale is not all you had hoped it would be, and you want to try living in another foreign city. Or perhaps you want to be flexible in case you decide you like another part of town better.
  • You want to live as carefree as possible, and renting would free you from repairs and maintenance. You’ve had a lifetime of mowing the yard and fixing the leaking toilet. Let the landlord do those things. Then you’ll be free to sit at an outdoor café sipping espresso while a makeshift band from a music college plays for tips. (Yes, that place exists in Cuenca, Ecuador!)
  • You just don’t trust buying a property in a foreign country.
  • You don’t have the cash to buy a property outright and it’s difficult, if not impossible, to get a mortgage in most third-world countries.
  • Renting just gives you an easier way to say adios if you want to leave.

Tally the Votes

I’m sure you could add your own reasons and inclinations that would put you in one camp or the other, but these are a good starting point for the rent vs. buy debate.

Pride of ownership vs. freedom and flexibility.

And the winner is… well, that depends on your personality, plans, resources, and dreams. Only you can decide the best living situation for you.

You’ve already made the big decision—or you’re mulling it over – to uproot yourself and move abroad. And when you do that, you won’t become just another number. You’ll be…

9,000,001… 9,000,002… 9,000,003…

If you want to add a point for either side in this buy vs. rent debate or if you have any other comments on the subject, I invite you to share them below in the comments.

by: Bruce Peterson