January is a natural time to take stock of your financial life, and to dream big dreams about 2018. Could this be the year you make the leap to homeownership? Or will you make a big change and trade in your mortgage payment for a landlord? While the housing market has slowly recovered from its dip in the 2000s, blind faith in housing gains has not. Home ownership rates hit a 50-year low in 2015, and first-time home buyers are now waiting a record six years to move from renting to buying. In fact, young adults looking to upgrade out of their one-bedroom apartments are increasingly renting single-family homes rather than buying. Single-family rentals — either detached homes or townhomes — make up the fastest-growing segment of the housing market, according to the Urban Institute.
In the complex calculus that’s required for the renting vs. buying decision, one variable stands out: Which is cheaper? If that seems like a tough question to answer, there’s a good reason: crunch the data from America’s largest cities, and you’ll learn it’s a perfectly split decision. Home buying is a better option for those who plan to stay in one place for 3-5 years or more. It’s also a good investment in many housing markets. According to an Urban Institute analysis, among 33 top metropolitan areas in the U.S., there are 16 where buying is cheaper.
While it’s cheaper to buy than rent there, it would be a stretch to call the Miami housing market a bargain. A median-priced home still consumes 32 percent of a median earner income, above the recommended 30 percent.
Not long ago, it was possible to buy a home in Detroit for well below the median home price in the U.S. The Detroit area has seen some revitalization in recent years, however, and while housing prices have gone up, it’s still a better value to buy a home there than it is to rent one.
Rent in Chicago is on the rise faster than home prices. While they may level out in the near future, it’s a good time to buy while you still can.
Renting is significantly more expensive than buying in the City of Brotherly Love. In fact, the average wage-earner would need a 36 percent raise to afford the average rent there. Buying, however, is more affordable.
For roughly 90 percent of Tampa communities, renting is more expensive than buying.
The average rent in Pittsburgh is $1250 per month, whereas the average home price is just over $145,000. Broken down, it’s cheaper to buy in Pittsburgh, as your monthly mortgage will be much less expensive than the average rent.
In this popular college town, a homebuyer will save an average of $200 a month if they pay a mortgage instead of rent.
Historically speaking, it’s been cheaper to rent than buy in Cincinnati based on the percentage of a person’s income that went to housing costs. That number is now lower for buyers and higher for renters.
In the home of Disneyworld, the average monthly rent will cost you roughly double what the average comparable monthly mortgage payment will.
Even though median rents are falling in Houston, it’s still cheaper to buy, especially if you plan on staying in your home for three years or more.
Average monthly rent for an apartment in San Antonio will run you $1,226 (estimated as recently as December 2017). The price of a home in the area is $232,000. While the housing market is trending upward, it’s still more advantageous to buy a home, especially if you plan to stay in the area for a long period of time.
It’s no secret that home prices in the New York City area (including Newark and Jersey City) are well above the national average. However, rental prices are even higher, so if you can afford to buy property here, you’d be better off doing so rather than renting.
Minneapolis and St. Paul
The Twin Cities are becoming an increasingly popular to destination for young families to move, so it’s a good time to invest in property here instead of renting it.
Both rents and housing prices are low in the Kansas City area (average rent will cost just under a thousand dollars, while the average home price is $126,100), but buying is better long-term, as it offers more benefits, including potential tax write-offs.
Many market experts consider Columbus a “no-brainer” metro area as far as buying over renting. With affordable housing on both sides, the advantage goes to buying.
While a buyer may need a large income (or two above-average incomes) to buy here, they’ll need a slightly larger one to rent long-term.
If you’re looking to rent or by and are concerned about your credit, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get two free credit scores updated each month.