Is It Cheaper To Rent Or Buy?

buy or rent a home

Wait a minute, you may think – if you can afford it, isn’t buying the better choice? Isn’t renting just throwing money away? When you pay your mortgage, you’re putting money into an asset. When you rent, you’re just giving money to your landlord.

But buying a property involves a six-digit financial commitment that will affect your finances in a big way and maybe even change the way you live going forward.

If you catch yourself think whether it is better to buy or rent a home to live in, here’s what you need to know before making a decision.

Which make better financial sense?

Wait a minute, you may think – if you can afford it, isn’t buying the better choice? Isn’t renting just throwing money away? When you pay your mortgage, you’re putting money into an asset. When you rent, you’re just giving money to your landlord.

But it’s not as simple as that. You also need to consider the opportunity cost of renting or buying. Think about all the money spent on buying a home – down payment, legal fees, mortgage payments, maintenance fees, etc. – if you could invest this money in high-yield investments instead, renting could actually be more cost-effective in the long term.

On the other hand, if you rent a home, you lose the opportunity of enjoying equity gains if the value of your home increases.

Whether or not renting or buying is more cost effective in the long run depends on a multitude of factors such as: how long you plan to stay in the home, how much it appreciates each year, and how much you could have made by investing the downpayment.

If that sounds like too much math, don’t worry. Buy or rent calculators, such as those on EdgeProp or The New York Times, can compute these factors for you.

Plugging in the numbers

To illustrate, let’s compare the financial costs of renting versus buying a RM500,000 property. Here are a few assumptions we’ll make:

Renting scenario

  • Rent: RM1,500 a month, and increases by 3% every year on average
  • Any money that is saved from not buying the home is invested, with a return of 7% a year

Buying scenario

  • Price of home: RM500,000, and appreciates by 4% every year
  • Down payment: 10%, or RM50,000
  • Monthly instalment: RM2,280.08 (4.5% interest rate, 35-year tenure)
  • Upfront costs of buying (legal fees, stamp duty, etc): RM25,000
  • Maintenance costs: RM200 a month

We ran these numbers through the EdgeProp Buy Vs Rent Calculator and got the following:

It it cheaper to buy or rent in Malaysia?

Source: EdgeProp

Renting is cheaper than buying, but only for the first six years. After seven years, buying becomes cheaper.

It also depends on these factors

Deciding between renting and buying doesn’t just come down to which is the cheapest, however. You need to take into account your specific life circumstances:

Can you afford it?

This seems like an obvious question, but homeownership comes with a lot of hidden costs. Besides the down payment, your upfront costs will include legal fees and stamp duty charges that can run up to the thousands.

Upfront costs for a RM500,000 home

Down payment (10%)SPA legal feesStamp duty on MOTLoan agreement legal feesStamp duty on loan agreementTotal

Even if you can afford the upfront costs, make sure that you will still have savings after buying the property. You don’t want all your savings tied up in your home – this makes it hard to deal with emergencies if they arise.

You’ll also need to consider if you can afford the monthly mortgage. Don’t take on a home loan if it prevents you from meeting your other financial obligations or if you may end up living paycheque-to-paycheque. The rule of thumb is that your mortgage should not exceed 28% of your gross monthly income.

Read More: Are You Financially Ready To Buy A House In Malaysia?

Is mobility important to you?

If you value freedom and mobility – say, you anticipate changing jobs far away or moving to a new area within the next few years – it could be more cost-effective to rent.

Otherwise, you may have to find a tenant or sell off your property. If you choose to sell your property, the selling price will have to cover all the upfront costs you’ve forked out when you bought the property, as well as any costs associated with selling (such as the real property gains tax). Unfortunately, if you sell your home so soon after your purchase, it may not have had time to grow in value.

Can you bear the cost and responsibilities of a homeowner?

Aside from the mortgage, homeowners also have to service the following expenses:

  • Quit rent (cukai tanah) for landed properties
  • Property assessment tax (cukai pintu) for landed and non-landed properties
  • Sinking fund for non-landed properties
  • Maintenance fee for non-landed properties

Homeowners also have to deal with any maintenance or repair issues, or pay someone to handle them. However, if you’re renting, major repair works will be handled by your landlord.

Do you want to decorate/renovate your home?

Want to install shelves, paint the walls or expand your kitchen? As a renter, you won’t have a lot of freedom when it comes to making structural changes to your home. If home decoration or renovation is important to you, then buying is the way to go.

No one-size-fits-all solution

When it comes to buying or renting, it all comes down to individual factors. Consider your financial constraints, how long you’ll live there, your investment gains if you were to invest your down payment instead of buying a house, etc.

Using a buy or rent calculator is a good way to play with these variables before you make a decision. In short, neither renting nor buying is inherently better than the other.

Rent or buy house FAQs

How much should you spend on rent in Malaysia?

According to Juwai IQI’s 2023 Malaysia Home Rental Index, the average rental in Malaysia is around RM1975. However, a closer look reveals that rental in Kuala Lumpur averages at RM3192. Meanwhile, average rentals in Selangor is around RM 1,851.

What salary do you need to buy a house in Malaysia

[table “” not found /]

If we rule out low cost housing, the next most affordable housing are the mid-range properties from RM500,000. Based on the table above, you will need a monthly salary of RM7,000 to be able to afford the monthly home loan repayments. This is assuming you get approved for a 90% financing package from the bank.

What is the benefits for first time home buyer in Malaysia

As a first-time homebuyer, you are eligible for several benefits to help you own a house. There are various housing schemes both national and also localised to individual states. The main ones are:

This article was first published in February 2014 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Get free weekly money tips!

*Free of charge. Unsubscribe anytime.
newsletter image