When the housing bubble burst and the market tanked in 2006 and 2007, a lot of people lost their homes. It was a sad, stressful time for many.

The result was that many homeowners became renters, and plenty of people who might have considered buying a home after college or when they got married waited. Renting made the most sense for a lot of people.

These days, with the real estate market recovering well and rental rates on the rise, the story has flipped. For many people, owning instead of renting is a better option.

It’s Less Expensive to Own

The average rent in the Tampa Bay area is between $1,100 and $1,900 per month. Of course, that depends on where you live. The median sale price of homes across the Tampa Bay area, according to Realtor.com, is $175,000. At that amount with a 30 year fixed rate mortgage, and an interest rate of 4.5 percent, your mortgage would be less than $900 per month. Note: There are homes for sale across Tampa Bay in all price ranges, and you could pay even less than the median price - or more - depending on your budget and needs.

Owning Means It’s Yours

How many times have you wished you could change the wall color, plant a garden, or do any number of things to your rental but you didn’t because you’re not allowed? Or maybe you didn’t want to deal with the hassle of losing your deposit. When you own, the restrictions you have as a renter no longer exist. Note: If you live in a condo or homeowner’s association, you do have to follow their rules and regulations.

You Can Finally Have a Pet

Many rentals, homes or apartments, don’t allow pets. Those that do make you pay higher rent and require a non-refundable deposit. When your monthly rent is already too high, you have to say no to having a four-legged, furry friend. Owning your home means you can have a pet or two without having to worry about paying anyone for the privilege. Note: Check with your insurance provider before getting a pet as they may have breed restrictions that could impact your insurance coverage.

Down Payment Worries

Many people let an inability to save a 20 percent down payment stop them from buying. While some loans and interest rates do require a larger amount down, you have more options than you realize. Many lenders offer conventional loans with as little as five percent down. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) backs loans with as little as three percent down. Some buyers may qualify for down payment and closing cost assistance programs, depending on where you live:

Pinellas County Housing Finance Authority

Hillsborough County Housing Programs

When you see programs for first time buyers, don’t be fooled. Some programs consider you a first time home buyer if you haven’t owned a home in three or more years. Check with your lender or local program to find out if you qualify.

If you’ve been thinking you’d rather own your home - again or for the first time - the Tampa Bay real estate market is much better than it was a few years ago. You may be able to afford more home than you realize and qualify for a mortgage you didn’t think you could get. 

It’s time to stop paying for someone else’s mortgage and start building your own future.