A house in Dignowity Hill, an area of older, historic homes east of downtown. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

As? Millennials age (yes, they do!) and start families, many are compelled to own a home instead of rent, but this should not be an automatic response. There are a seemingly overwhelming number of variables at play in making an informed decision on renting versus buying.

Common factors that influence whether you should rent or buy include the length of time before your next move, the difference in cost per square foot between renting and owning comparable properties in your area, mortgage rates, access to credit, and the affordability of a down payment for a home purchase.

Of course, anticipated repairs and maintenance costs are a serious consideration. Choose a home inspector carefully and consider purchasing a home appliance and air conditioning warranty. But there also are smaller factors that can wind up playing a large role in the decision to own a home. What are the neighbors like? Are there homeowners association fees? What has the crime rate been in the neighborhood? Also, consider if the neighborhood has restrictions against renting out the home on Airbnb or similar short-term rental platforms. In the right town or location, making your home available on Airbnb for special occasions in your city (such as next spring’s men’s basketball Final Four here or SXSW in Austin) can meaningfully subsidize the annual mortgage expense for a home. And who wouldn’t love a paid-for staycation at a local resort?

First-time homebuyers often make the dangerous assumption that they will make money on their home when they eventually sell it. The reality is that after all of the costs of home ownership have been factored in, many homeowners do not make out like a bandit. Increasing property taxes are a big reason why. Before committing, always know the annual taxes for your nest, and do not assume that they will remain static.

When it comes to renting, other questions come up, including how often and by how much the rent will increase and whether there is a pet policy. How many parking spots are included in the lease? Proponents of home ownership say renting is like throwing money away, whereas renters will say they have more flexibility and financial independence. Renting often can give individuals an opportunity to live in an area where either they would not be able to afford a home purchase or they wouldn’t want to take on the maintenance required of older neighborhoods.

One advocate for home ownership is the U.S. government. Subsidies for housing range from low-cost financing from the Federal Housing Administration to getting a tax deduction from the interest paid on a home mortgage. In this respect, houses are one of the few remaining tax shelters.

A soaring housing market the past few years has functioned as a double-edged sword – a good investment for those whose homes have appreciated in value and a barrier for those who cannot buy homes with skyrocketing values. One of the main reasons housing prices have climbed so rapidly is the limited supply of homes available for purchase. Since the recovery from the 2008 housing crisis, there has been a historically tight supply of homes available for purchase, including existing homes or new construction. This has left the homes available for sale priced at a premium. It’s a seller’s market.

Yes, home ownership is exciting and fulfilling, but it should be considered very seriously. It should never be entered into lightly. It can become a nightmare that wrecks your credit or hurts your relationship with your partner.

Happy hunting!

Jeanie Wyatt

Jeanie Wyatt is the founder, chief executive officer and chief investment officer of South Texas Money Management.