- Use your NY Times graphics. I have long been a fan of the outstanding NY Times infographics department, so when they put together an interactive infographic, you can probably assume its going to be top notch. Here, they ask if it is better to buy or to rent, and they let you input all of your own variables. Don't be a tool! Use this tool! (Sorry, couldn't resist)
- Don't buy too far away from your city center. Where do you work? Where do you buy groceries? Where do you go to the movies? How much gas is it going to take to get to all of these places on a regular basis in an average month? This is an issue, folks. Gas isn't getting any cheaper or more practical. $140 a barrel oil could be $300 a barrel oil in a matter of a couple of years. But, don't take it from me.....take it from the experts.
- Have an environmentally-conscious architect or contractor friend check out the house independently. You would take a used car to a mechanic friend before you bought it, wouldn't you? So why not have someone who knows about buildings check out your home before you buy it? What if it looks great and has a stellar maintenance record, but poor insulation? A severe lack of insulation will impact your energy bills drastically when the seasons change, and the cost of energy isn't going down either.
- Chose something with manageable landscaping. Pretty green lawns take a lot of maintenance and use a lot of water. If you're going to get one, and take care of it properly, for god's sakes, at least get a hand-powered lawn mower (see point #2 for why) and don't complain to me when your water bill comes back.
- Don't forget to calculate your homeowner's insurance. And don't forget to add disaster insurance if you live in flood, tornado, or earthquake-prone areas. Global warming isn't going anywhere - and the earth is already angry. Add it in and compare it to the cost of losing, oh I don't know, everything, and take that into account.
Epilogue, 27 June 2008: Treehugger points out that you don't necessarily have to buy OR rent with this great article. So many options!