If you are renting, you cannot make any changes to the property without permission and I don't see why you would want to pay for any improvements yourself to someone elses property. Every year or two you would have to renew your lease or prepare for a move. The great thing about renting is that you don't have to worry about any real estate taxes, association dues, etc... you are only responsible for paying your rent which is less stressful and majority of the time a less expensive monthly payment. You are also not responsible for any issues with the property. For example, if an appliance breaks the owner will be responsible for repairing it.
So, should you rent or own? In todays market it is a great time to buy with interest rates the lowest they have been in fifty years. The price of homes are at a low, and there are so many great bargains out there that it's the deal of the century. So why not buy? The decision should be made depending on how long you live there. If you plan on moving within the next five years then you may want to consider renting. The first five years of your mortgage payment is almost all interest and there would be no real benefit if you plan on moving in a short time, so renting may make the most sense. If you are planning on staying for a while, five years or more then it's time to buy!
Now, consider your options and speak to a Realtor who knowledgeable in both home ownership and leasing real estate. They should also have knowledge on the current home finance industry, rates, programs, or have someone on their team who does so they can guide you to make the right decision for you.