Rising home prices made renting cheaper than buying in many parts of the country. But that dynamic has begun to change: Housing affordability, as measured by the ratio of median home prices to median household incomes, has fallen below pre-housing bubble levels in just over two-thirds of the country, according to an analysis of more than 380 metro areas by Moody's Analytics.
Renting is still cheaper than buying in most markets, but rising rents and falling house prices mean that, in some areas, this won't be the case for long. Buying a home is already cheaper than renting in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Orlando, Fla., according to Moody's Analytics. In other markets, including Dallas, Las Vegas and Sacramento, Cailf., the equation is likely to soon turn in favor of homeownership if current trends persist, the firm says.
In Ann Arbor, Mich., where home prices fell 11.2% between 2007 and 2010, according to Fiserv Case-Shiller, housing affordability has risen well above historical levels, according to Moody's Analytics.
That is good news for home buyers such as Steven Upton, a 42-year-old photographer, who in June will close on four-bedroom brick house on 10 acres in an upscale community in Ann Arbor. Mr. Upton paid $400,000 for the home, which previously listed for $600,000. "It's a tremendous deal," he says.
Before buying a house, it is wise to compare rental prices for similar properties. To be ultraconservative, wait until the monthly outlays, including taxes and insurance, are equal. You also could factor in the tax savings of owning, which would make buying more attractive even if the gross monthly outlay is slightly higher.