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Is it Better to Rent or Buy? Five Test Cases Around NYC

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Renting versus buying can be a very difficult decision to make both emotionally and economically. Because properties around New York are all almost all different, there are many details that can be pitted for or against a decision to buy one apartment versus renting another. Two buildings that seem nearly identical on paper may be worlds apart in a buyer's mind if, for example, the buyer is reliant on Fresh Direct for groceries and one building has a cold storage room for deliveries while the other does not. Credit history can also be important when making comparisons. A few extra basis points on a 30 year mortgage rate can turn a monthly expense comparison upside down.

Following is a very simple breakdown of major metrics and qualities by which apartments can be compared. We attempted to find comparable rental and sale properties in a number of different neighborhoods for comparison. Note: "Mo. Expense" is a monthly cash flow figure comprised of rent on the rental side of the equation, and a mortgage payment plus maintenance fees or common charges in the case of ownership. Mortgage payments are based on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 3.82% annual percentage rate after a $50,000 down payment at purchase.

Yorkville Address Description Mo. Expense Sq. Feet Amenities
Rent 245 E 93rd St. 2BR/1.5BA $3,499 960 sf Dishwasher, Wash/Dryer
Buy 226 E 95th St. 2BR/1BA $3,201 825 sf Dishwasher, fireplace

This pair of Yorkville residences are very close to each other geographically and in monthly expense. The rental apartment is in a building with more amenities, however, including a private garden, attended garage, bike room, doorman, concierge and valet. It's also on a higher floor with a balcony that provides a view of the East River. The co-op building has fewer amenities but it's in a pre-war building and it sounds like the board is fairly flexible on purchasing arrangements, allowing pieds a terre, gifting, co-purchasing and parents buying for children on a case by case basis. The asking price for the co-op is $525,000.
· Rent: 245 East 93rd Street [StreetEasy]
· Buy: 226 E95th Street, #401 [StreetEasy]


DoBro Address Description Mo. Expense Sq. Feet Amenities
Rent 53 Boerum Pl. 2BR/2BA $3,425 854 sf Dishwasher, Radiant heat floors in BAs
Buy 53 Boerum Pl. 2BR/2BA $3,364 854 sf Dishwasher, Radiant heat floors in BAs

If these figures seem strikingly similar it's because it's for the same unit in the same building in DoBro—a 2BR/2BA 11th floor penthouse that is available for either rent or purchase (asking price is $599,000). It's easy to see here that under these mortgage terms, one would be spending less per month to own this unit and hold the debt for its purchase than to rent at this price.
· Rent: 53 Boerum Place [StreetEasy]
· Buy: 53 Boerum Place, #11F [StreetEasy]


LIC Address Description Mo. Expense Sq. Feet Amenities
Rent 4615 Center Blvd 2BR/2BA $3,830 1,016 sf W/D, balcony
Buy 5-19 Borden Ave. 2BR/2BA $3,862 1,030 sf Dishwasher, W/D, balcony

These two apartments in Long Island City are fairly similar except for location. The rental is located in TF Cornerstone's 42-story EastCoast tower on the East River in LIC, while the condo (asking price $755,000) is located inside the Murano building in Hunter's Point. Both buildings are modern with a lot of brokerbabble about ecological soundness. Both units are located on the 9th floor of their respective buildings.
· Rent: 4615 Center Blvd., 9th Fl. PH [StreetEasy]
· Buy: 5-19 Borden Avenue, 9K [StreetEasy]


FiDi Address Description Mo. Expense Sq. Feet Amenities
Rent 25 Broad Street 2BR/2BA $5,200 1,130 sf Washer/dryer
Buy 1 Wall Street Court. 2BR/2BA $5,057 928 sf Dishwasher, W/D

The difference between comparable rental and purchase apartments was greatest down in the Financial District, where rentals tended to be newer and the units larger than in condos available for sale in the same price and size range. There are fewer pictures available of the rental unit on the 16th floor of 25 Broad Street, which appears to have the unrestrained decor and amenities of a cruise ship-themed Las Vegas casino. The smaller size of the condo unit at 1 Wall Street (asking price, $899,000) shows its layout shortcomings in the floor plan, though. The smaller second bedroom is really more suitable as just a home office, and the back-to-back grouping of the two full baths is less than ideal.
· Rent: 25 Broad Street, 16K [StreetEasy]
· Buy: 1 Wall Street Court, #309 [StreetEasy]


Clinton Address Description Mo. Expense Sq. Feet Amenities
Rent 347 W57th St. 2BR/2BA $5,000 988 sf Balcony, dishwasher
Buy 310 W52nd St. 2BR/1.5BA $6,254 901 sf Dishwasher, W/D

Another neighborhood where comparisons between comparably sized and priced rentals and purchase units was difficult. To buy in Clinton seems to mean that you would pay more money for less area, but in a newer building with a better layout. Even the floor plan of the condo at 310 West 52nd St. (asking $1.25 million) identifies the small second bedroom as an office. The newer condo property on 52nd Street does appear to have nicer building amenities than the rental, like a gym.
· Rent: 347 West 57th Street [StreetEasy]
· Buy: 310 West 52nd Street, 4J [StreetEasy]
· The Eternal Debate: Buy Versus Rent [Curbed]