If you were to choose whether to rent or buy based solely on what it costs to move in, renting would win, hands down. Once renters pay an application fee, a security deposit, and the rent itself, they’re in. After that, they are on the hook for monthly rent, renter’s insurance (which is optional but always a good idea), and possibly utilities, unless they are included in the rent.
The home buying process is much different and much more expensive. Upfront costs include a downpayment (the bigger the better), mortgage fees, and closing costs. The future will include mortgage payments, mortgage insurance, homeowners insurance, property taxes, and ongoing maintenance and repairs.
Even with all those other initial costs, buying is typically worth it, especially in a place like St. Louis. Monthly mortgage payments are usually much less than monthly rent. So over time, renters are paying more in total. Remember that break-even point: As long as the homeowner plans to stay in the home for longer than that period, buying is a better deal.
Renters might avoid the big payout that homebuyers have to make, but they have little to show for the money they spend. Sure, they have somewhere to live, but they aren’t building equity and won’t get anything when they move out.
Homeowners have a tangible piece of property that they can live in, sell, rent out, or pass on to their children. They will get the proceeds from selling the house, if and when they decide to leave. While living there, they will also get the tax benefits of being able to claim their mortgage interest, insurance, and property tax costs.