It still pays to buy a home versus renting one in nearly two-thirds of the 50 major U.S. cities, according to Trulia’s quarterly report on the rent-versus-own equation. Burgeoning rental demand is helping to tip the financial scales toward buying, yet demand for rentals has continued to increase partly due to difficulty in securing a mortgage.
“Prospective home buyers, who are ready and qualified to buy, face an uphill battle despite falling home prices and record-low mortgage rates,” said Ken Shuman, head of communications at Trulia. “Today, many banks are actually less enthusiastic about approving residential mortgage applications, which has dragged out the home-buying process. Until a middle ground on lending practices can be met, many highly qualified buyers may be forced to be renters for now.”
To determine the index, Trulia uses a ratio between the median listing price of two-bedroom apartments, condominiums, and town homes divided by a year’s median rent for similar units. The lower the number, the more favorable it is to buy. Since the index only takes into account the equation for buying or renting multi-family products, it doesn’t speak to the benefits of single-family purchases versus rentals.
New York City, where home prices are still as sky high as the buildings, remains the perennial top market for renting versus buying with an index rate of 36. That number compares to an index of six for Las Vegas, where buying a home is far cheaper than renting. Distressed Detroit; Mesa, Ariz.; and Fresno, Calif., came in second, third, and fourth in the buying-is-better category, all scoring seven on the index. Arlington, Texas, came in fifth with an eight. Behind New York City, Fort Worth, Texas; Omaha, Neb.; Seattle, Wash.; and San Francisco were two through five on the best-to-rent list.
There were a couple of surprises on the list. Miami, for instance, with its high numbers of foreclosures, continues to be a market where it is better to buy than rent, with an index of 13 in July. However, that reading comes after a 112% jump since January thanks to a mini-buying boom created by foreign investors and foreclosure freezes, Trulia reported.
Teresa Burney is a senior editor for Builder magazine.