The difference between renting land and buying land in Second Life:
This is one of the most discussed themes when it comes to land and pretty much all Second Life residents get it wrong because they compare the terms rent and buy with what they stand for in Real Life. In Real Life you rent a car and you pay for it for the time you rent it (weekly, monthly etc) while the owner of a car has no payment beside the one-time-buying-price. If you rent a flat, you pay a weekly or monthly rent while someone who buys a house has no such committment once he has paid the full price.
Second Life works slightly different – because your RL house or RL land is usually not hosted on a server! Servers are expensive and the more server space (in prim) your land supports the higher your weekly / monthly server fee. Now how does renting / owning land works in detail ?
If you buy land in Second Life you do that by purchasing via land menu. You click on purchase button and your name will be shown in land menu as the new land owner.
If you buy land from Linden Lab (mainland) you will pay a monthly tier/fee directly to Linden Lab to host your land on one of their servers. The more prim your land supports the higher your monthly tier.
If you buy land from a Private Estate you will pay a monthly tier/fee to your estate owner who collects tier for all parcels in one region from his residents and who has to pay tier to Linden Lab to host his region / sim on one of their servers. Again, the more prim your land supports the higher your monthly tier.
If you buy land – from Linden Lab or from a Private Estate – your name will be shown in land menu as the new Owner. You will have full access to your land menu / settings, you can deed your land to your own group, you can terraform or landscape and you even can resell your land at any time for a price you choose. Land Owners usually have all abilities on land they own.
If you rent land in Second Life you do that by paying to a rental box owned by your Private Estate. Linden Lab does not offer rental land.
You pay your rental box for a certain time – usually 1 – 4 weeks at once – and by doing so you agree to a rental contract with your Private Estate. The land you rent will still be owned by your landlord and is usually deeded to the estate group. To be able to rez on your land, to upload a music URL to the land menu, to receive any abilities at all you must join the estate group. You will be assigned to a certain role for their tenants and this role will be granted certain abilities (rez, set home, edit music URL, deed items to the estate group, edit names to the parcel ban list, set landing point, etc etc). Without beeing a member of your landlord’s group you can do nothing on your rented land. Land Renters usually have very limited abilities on land they rent. And of course, a renter cannot resell the land because it is still estate owned and he is only allowed to use it within limits.
Concluding you can say: The difference between renting and buying is:
a) the way you pay: You BUY by purchasing your land in land menu and you RENT by paying a rental box
b) your abilities: land owners have full abilities while land renters have very limited abilities restricted in their landlord’s estate group
But both land owner and land renter have to pay a fee / tier for their land because it is always about covering the expenses for their land caused by hosting it on a server. Usually renting land is more expensive because a land renter with his limited abilities will have to call more often for support (please terraform for me, please move my house, please deed my TV to your group, please ban XZY from my land).