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52% of Black Americans say homeownership is a mark of success, report finds. But it can conflict with other goals

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While homeownership is out of reach for many Black Americans, most still see it as a hallmark of success.

About 66% of Black Americans consider themselves successful in some way, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center. Slightly more than half of those surveyed, 52%, believe homeownership is important for their definition of success.

Meanwhile, 82% said they feel the most successful when they can provide for their families, according to Pew, which surveyed 4,736 Black adults in the U.S. between Sept. 12 and Sept. 24.

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Those two markers of success can be at odds. While homeownership is known to be a path to build wealth, a mortgage payment and other housing-related expenses can cause financial strain, leaving you with little to spend on other expenses or save toward your goals.

“Being ‘house poor’ doesn’t do much for you,” said Preston D. Cherry, a certified financial planner and the founder and president of Concurrent Financial Planning in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

‘Homeownership has a lot more expenses than renting’

“Homeownership has a lot more expenses than renting: taxes, insurance, maintenance, down payment. All these factors need to be considered,” said Cherry, a member of CNBC’s Financial Advisor Council. 

Outside of the mortgage, property taxes and insurance costs, utility and maintenance costs also tend to be higher in a house than an apartment, Kamila Elliott, a CFP, co-founder and CEO of Collective Wealth Partners in Atlanta, previously told CNBC. Before you close the deal on a house, it’s important to have good estimates of those costs to anticipate what your realistic budget would look like.

“Understand what it is to be a homeowner and how things work,” said Elliott, who is also a member of CNBC’s Financial Advisor Council.

Owning a home might also leave you without enough money to fund other financial goals, such as paying down debt, providing for additional family members or saving for retirement, Cherry said.

In some markets, renting can be the smarter financial choice, says Susan M. Wachter, a professor of real estate and finance at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. 

“The cost of homeownership versus renting has been [making it] daunting to become a homeowner. It’s less expensive to be a renter in most markets in the U.S.,” Wachter said.

If you’re looking to provide for your family and can do that by renting as opposed to owning, “then that’s the way forward,” she said.

Give yourself grace. Homeownership will be there for you when you’re ready.
Preston D. Cherry
certified financial planner

How to build wealth without owning a home

When you compare upfront costs, renting is likely to be less expensive than buying a house. A rental unit’s security deposit and a potential broker’s fee are likely to be a lot less money compared to a down payment, said Jacob Channel, a senior economist at LendingTree.

Therefore, remember “there’s nothing wrong with being a renter,” and there are millionaires in the U.S. who could afford a house but still choose to rent, he said.

“At the end of the day, what good is being a homeowner when you can’t provide basic necessities for yourself and your loved ones?” he said.

While homeownership can create wealth over the long term, it’s not always the case. “Can you build wealth without homeownership? Yes. Rent and invest the difference,” Cherry said.

By being financially flexible, you may be able to accomplish and address more goals than being able to fund one goal, he said.

“Give yourself grace. Homeownership will be there for you when you’re ready,” Cherry said.

Join the virtual CNBC Equity and Opportunity Forum on March 21 at 1p.m. ET, where we’ll talk to corporate leaders about how they are navigating DEI efforts, working to engage in constructive conversations with employees and other stakeholders and potentially reframing initiatives as they work to create equity and opportunity for all. Register for free here.

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