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The rent vs. buy decision often is a lifestyle choice and a matter of timing. While mortgage rates are rising, most mortgages have a fixed interest rate, so payments are stable and long-term values grow, which is an investment consideration for potential buyers. Rents tend to trend up, and are expected to rise in 2014, but landlords are responsible for all maintenance costs. While owning a home comes with yard work, repairs and insurance costs, there are also significant tax benefits available to homeowners.

Areas with positive job and population growth are more likely to have good prospects for home price growth in the year ahead; buyers in weak markets need a longer term view.

For people who plan to stay only a few years, or have insufficient cash, renting is often the best option. In many areas today it is still cheaper to buy than rent a comparable home, and the long-term benefits of homeownership often outweigh the benefits of renting.

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• Local Market Conditions

Talk to a Realtor® about the health of the local economy. Ask how home prices and rents are trending in your local area. Talk to consumers about the impact of rising rents on their home buying decisions.