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Buying Remains the Cheaper Option, but for How Long?


Housing prices nationally continue to rise. Quarterly and year-over-year, U.S. housing prices have gone up for more than 20 consecutive quarters as of Q1, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

In this escalating price environment, Trulia asked the question, is it still cheaper to buy a home than to rent? The overall answer is yes‒‒but not as much of a yes as it used to be, and things and that yes might not be true for much longer in some areas.

According to Trulia’s latest estimates, it’s still generally 33 percent cheaper to buy a home in the long run, but that number is most accurate for households that move every seven years and are able to put down 20 percent on a new home. That percentage, based on median buying price versus median renting price and federal interest rates, however, is 8 percent lower than it was a year ago and is where it was in 2014.

“While it’s still a better deal to buy,” Trulia reported, “the economic benefit has narrowed to the point that in some places, for some households, the decision to rent or buy a home may be too close to call.”

In some areas, such as Baton Rouge, it’s still 50 percent cheaper to buy than rent. But in San Jose, buying is on 3.5 percent cheaper. And while it’s still cheaper to buy than rent in all of the country’s top 100 metros, “the financial advantage of buying versus renting has decreased in all of the 100 biggest metros from the same time last year,” Trulia reported.

This is attributed to increased mortgage rates, slowing or stalled rent price growth in 93 of those 100 metros, and the fact that home values have increased in all 100. While rents in these metros have increased about 2.6 percent since 2014, house prices have increase more than 9 percent, according to Trulia.

Furthermore, with interest rates predicted to rise again over the next year or two, the most expensive markets could see a flip in the buy/rent dynamic.

It soon could be cheaper to rent in San Jose, for example, if interest rates rise to 4.7 percent, Trulia reported. The same would be true in San Francisco if rates reached 5.1 percent and in Honolulu 5.3 if they reached 5.3 percent.

One additional factor that may affect the financial advantage of buying is the Trump administration’s proposed tax policy, Trulia reported.

“By raising the standard deduction, this policy would erode the financial advantage of buying,” the report stated. “Moreover, if home values continue to outpace rent, then the concern of homeownership being better financial decision hangs on how much home values increase for these metros.”

About Author: Scott Morgan

Scott Morgan is a multi-award-winning journalist and editor based out of Texas. During his 11 years as a newspaper journalist, he wrote more than 4,000 published pieces. He's been recognized for his work since 2001, and his creative writing continues to win acclaim from readers and fellow writers alike. He is also a creative writing teacher and the author of several books, from short fiction to written works about writing.

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