Renting vs. owning: The good, the bad, the reality

Tax benefits, flexibility, insurance top list of concerns

Fed up with paying rent? Tired of watching real estate prices rise? Join the club, since a record number of tenants have stepped over the threshold and bought their first abode. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the home ownership rate has jumped to a record high of 67.9 percent, as of 2002. Should you join the buying fray or stay as a tenant? A host of pros and cons will help sift through the choices. Freedom: As a tenant, you can usually lock the door and take a vacation wherever your budget will allow, with no worries about mowing the lawn or broken pipes to repair. Inside and out, the property is someone else's. As an owner, your castle is also your headache. Flexibility: Don't like the place? As a tenant, 30 days' notice and you're home free, or until your lease expires, whichever comes first. Selling a place is far more involved. Avoiding the ownership learning curve: As a tenant, worrying about estimates on driveway removal or roofing materials are off your radar. Taking ...