Renting vs. Owning: What lifestyle do you want?

sault living

Editor’s Note: is happy to launch a new bi-weekly column, Sault Living with Sarah Rodrigues.  The column will focus on lifestyle and residential apartment living.  


While your grandparents probably always say “a home is the best investment you can make,” there are pros and cons to both home ownership and renting. Sault Ste. Marie offers a variety of home ownership and rental options, so you can choose what’s right for you.


Where you want to live can often affect whether you rent or purchase. If you want to live close to work, on a bus route, near the city centre, near a particular school, or in the suburbs, you will have to look at what options are available in that area. In Sault Ste. Marie, for example, 88% of people who live downtown are renters.

If you’re new in town and aren’t sure where you want to live, consider renting until you’ve decided. It is a very costly mistake to buy in a neighbourhood that isn’t right for you.

If you change jobs often or plan to move around frequently, it is generally better to rent. If you purchase a home and have to sell it in a short time, your disposal fees, real estate fees, and closing costs are likely to wipe out any increase in the home’s value, so you may lose money overall.


The costs associated with renting and owning vary greatly depending on the type of home you choose, location, your personal credit, and current market rates. These are some things to consider when calculating and comparing the costs of renting versus owning.

Renting Owning
Initial costs Most landlords require first and last month’s rent. Down payment of 5-25% of the home purchase price.
Additional costs You may be asked for deposits for keys, laundry cards, etc. but these are returnable on move-out. Closing fees, legal fees, land transfer taxes, etc. add another 5-10% to the purchase price.
Monthly cost Rent price; will increase annually according to Landlord & Tenant Board guidelines. Mortgage payments plus interest; vary based on the value of the home, size of your down payment, and length of mortgage term.
Property taxes Included in rent. Determined based on the city’s assessment of the value of your home. In Sault Ste. Marie, the owner of a $300,000 home can expect to pay approximately $5,000 per year in property taxes.
Insurance Most landlords require tenant’s insurance, which is generally very reasonable ($250-400 per year). You’ll likely need mortgage insurance, home insurance, and in some cases life insurance; costs vary depending on the home’s value and your deductible.
Maintenance Included in rent. Estimate 5-10% of the home’s value in maintenance costs, per year.
Utilities costs Some or all may be included in your rent; ask the landlord for estimates for utilities that are not included. Varies with home size and usage; ask the previous owners for estimates.


The most common argument you’ll hear for buying instead of renting is building equity. While it is true that long-term home ownership is likely to grow your investment, it’s important to consider the difference in cost of living. For example, if home ownership is two or three times more expensive than renting, it may make more sense to invest that money and continue to rent. Speak to a financial advisor about what makes the most sense in your situation.


Home ownership may provide a sense of accomplishment and independence. You could decide to paint the bedroom red tomorrow, or finish the basement, or take out a wall. Home ownership, because it is more permanent, lets you put down roots and make it your own.

For many people, renting is easier. No need to mow the lawn or fix the refrigerator – your landlord should take care of any required maintenance. Travellers don’t have to worry about leaving a home looking unoccupied, especially if the building has a secure entrance and on-site management to look after things. Apartment buildings are often small communities, and some even offer amenities and social programs to encourage that neighbourhood feeling.

Overall, it’s important to determine what matters most to you, and choose a home that suits your lifestyle, needs, and budget.


  1. “Neighbourhood Profile: Downtown Sault Ste. Marie.”
  2. Gail Vaz-Oxlade: “Renting Versus Owning”
  3. City of Sault Ste. Marie: “Property Tax Calculator”
  4. Canadian Real Estate Magazine: “Real Estate Market Report for Sault Ste. Marie, ON”


  1. It’s sad Kevin C, decent one bedroom apartments are renting for $900 to $1200/month.
    In this day and age it’s pretty obvious that greed prevails every way you turn..
    A mortgage is cheaper than renting if you can qualify, but who wants to buy a grossly overpriced home and then the bottom falls out of the market and it is worth 1/2 or less of what you paid for it.
    The real estate market is due to take a kicking here in the Sault within the next year or so as people realize that it’s destiny is to be a retirement town and nothing more.

  2. For someone starting off it’s hard to do either.
    Decent apartments are getting ridiculous in price.
    Mortgages are hard to come by and many can’t qualify.
    This is all thanks to a handful of realtors (I could name a few in this area) that started a trend of overpricing homes to increase their commissions and a few suckers started paying the higher prices, it snowballed from there into what you see today, houses being overpriced by 30-50%, in some cases even more.

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