Rent or Buy? The data might surprise you - Movement Mortgage Blog

Buying a home is a huge financial commitment, but according to the latest data, it may be a better deal than paying rent.

In 58% of U.S. housing markets it is more affordable to buy a home today than rent, according to the RealtyTrac 2016 Rental Affordability Analysis. The analysis included recently released rental data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, along with public record sales deed data from RealtyTrac in 504 counties with a population of at least 100,000.

This number is a mild surprise considering home prices have been rising for the past several years. The Case-Shiller Home Price Index has increased at a 4% to 5% clip for several years, which is more than twice the rate of economic growth and more than three times the rate of inflation. A lack of inventory in some markets has only helped prices move up.

Why then is homeownership still a more affordable housing choice in 58% of all markets?

Rental rates are rising even faster than home prices. And wages aren’t keeping pace at all.

RealtyTrac’s research shows rent is rising faster than wages in 57% of U.S. cities. In fact, 2015 delivered the highest apartment rental rate growth the country has seen since 2007, according to The Wall Street Journal. The average apartment rent now stands at nearly $1,180, up from about $1,125 a year ago.

It may be a great time to own rental property, but not such a great time to be a tenant. Home prices are also still rising, which means some buyers may choose to act this spring before rents and home prices go even higher.

“Renters in 2016 will be caught between a bit of a rock and a hard place. … In markets where home prices are still relatively affordable, 2016 may be a good time for some renters to take the plunge into homeownership before rising prices and possibly rising interest rates make it increasingly tougher to afford to buy a home.” — Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac

Predictably, the most affordable areas to own a home include the Southeast, Midwest and Sun Belt cities. Cities in the Northeast and along the West Coast are less affordable on RealtyTrac’s index.

Look smart around your friends with these facts.

• Buying is more affordable than renting in 58% of the 504 counties RealtyTrac analyzed, including counties in Chicago, Phoenix, Miami, the Inland Empire of Southern California, Las Vegas and Detroit.

• Renting is more affordable than buying in 42% of the counties analyzed, including counties in Los Angeles, Houston, San Diego, New York City (Brooklyn) and Dallas.

• Homebuyers will spend 38% of their income to make monthly house payments in 2016 — assuming a 3% down payment and including mortgage, taxes, insurance and mortgage insurance on a median priced home

• Average wage earners will need to spend 37% of their income to rent a three-bedroom property in 2016.

Of course, at Movement our philosophy on affordability is that every prospective buyer should first speak to a mortgage professional about how much they can afford comfortably and within their means before they begin shopping for a home. Anyone evaluating renting vs. buying should talk to real estate and financial professionals in their community before making such a big decision.

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About the Author:

Adam O'Daniel

Adam O'Daniel is Movement's Communications Director. He leads corporate communication and public relations efforts across the organization. Email him at