Nine Cities Where Renting Makes No Sense

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The housing market is showing signs of significant recovery. In January, home prices rose 8.1% from the year before — the most since the recession, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price composite index. Similarly, housing permits and housing starts have climbed to their highest level since 2008.

While both home and rental prices are up, home prices are up significantly more than rental prices. The question remains, is buying a home still cheaper than renting?

According to Trulia, an online real estate listing service, buying is still the much better deal. Declining mortgage rates continue to lower the price of owning a home even as housing prices have risen. Based on a recent report from Trulia, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the cities where home ownership costs the least compared to rent.

Click here to see the nine cities  where renting makes no sense

According to Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist, nationally the cost to own a home is 44% cheaper than the cost to rent. Renters should expect to pay more, Kolko notes, in part because homeowners take additional risks. Among these risks, homeowners are exposed to unexpected renovation costs, the risk of home price declines and the possibility they may be unable to pay their mortgage if their financial condition changes.

In the nine cities where buying a home is far better than renting, home prices are relatively low because the markets never overbuilt. A majority of the cities did not overbuild because local economies were weak to begin with. Eight of the nine “had fewer jobs at the start of 2013 than they did 10 years earlier,” Kolko explained.

Most of them are found in the Rust Belt, an area characterized by long-term economic stagnation. Kolko told 24/7 Wall St. that many of these cities, including Detroit and Toledo, are manufacturing-heavy and have had long-term economic trouble as manufacturing jobs left the area. And because the areas continue to have weak economic forecasts, home prices remain low.

Because of the general economic hardship, home prices did not increase in these cities as much as in other areas during the housing bubble. As a result, home prices did not decline as much when the bubble burst.

In fact, in five of the cities where buying makes the most sense, including Kansas City and Birmingham, home price declines peak-to-trough were lower than the U.S. overall. These markets had far less overbuilding and speculation than the recession-shaken metropolitan areas in states such as Arizona, Nevada and Florida, according to Kolko.

Most markets with wide gaps between monthly home ownership and rental costs are located in states where the cost of living is low. All nine markets where buying a home makes sense are located in states that have lower costs of living than the nation as a whole, according to the Missouri Economic Research & Information Center. The Memphis metro area is primarily located in Tennessee, which had the nation’s second lowest cost of living in the final quarter of 2012. Indiana, where Gary is located, had the nation’s fifth lowest cost of living.

To identify the nine cities where buying is far less expensive than renting, 24/7 Wall St. relied on data provided by Trulia on the monthly costs of renting and buying a property in the nation’s 100 largest metro areas. Among the factors included in Trulia’s calculations are cost of moving, rent appreciation, inflation and mortgage costs of 20% down payment on a 30-year fixed mortgage at a rate of equal to the national average of 3.5%. Home sales figures from Trulia are for the past winter, which ran from December 2012 through February 2013. In addition, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed employment and unemployment figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Peak-to-trough home price changes are from the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s House Price Index and are adjusted for regional inflation by the Brookings Institution. Brookings also provided the percentage change in metropolitan area gross domestic product.

These are the nine cities where renting makes no sense.