Another rent vs buy comparison made the CBC website again.
The premise behind the standard buy vs rent calculation, as this one, is comparing two scenarios: buying now and holding for (say) 25 years, or renting now and renting for the same 25 years. Chop off the monthly outlay difference between the two (and putting aside the strangeness of any situation where buying a condo is more expensive than renting, but that's another post altogether!), invest the difference at a "conservative" 5%, extrapolate past appreciation (condos have been appreciating at 5% p.a.), assume current mortgage rates remain for the duration of the loan, and do a comparison. No problem.
The problem, notwithstanding the brazenness of some of the above assumptions, is that there is an embedded out-of-the-money option built into the renter scenario not considered in any of these calculations. That is, a renter need not rent for 25 years; instead he may rent for 5 years and, should prices drop, has the option of buying at lower prices. While lower prices are not an absolute certainty, the option still has value, especially if one calculates a high probability of price drops. (Of course these days landlords are in effect paying renters to hold this option, a bit bizarre when thought of in those terms.)