Buying vs. Renting in this Market – Calculate which makes sense for you.

rent vs. buy a home

The buy-versus-rent question is particularly relevant right now. To qualify for an expiring federal tax credit of up to $8,000, home buyers must sign a contract by April 30 and close on the house by June 30. Many economists also expect mortgage rates to rise in coming months.

Camela Witters, a 38-year-old trophy engraver in Las Vegas, plans to close on her first home purchase — a four-bedroom, $164,000 house nearly identical to the one she is now renting — in the next few days. She decided to buy, she said, when she found out she could save money by doing so. “I didn’t buy a house when everyone did,” said Ms. Witters, who lives with her companion and their children. “So I’m kind of taking advantage of all the foreclosures.”

The Times analysis is based on comparing the costs of buying and renting a similar home, using data from Moody’s Economy.com, a research firm, and from real estate agents. This kind of comparison can never tell someone for sure what the best financial move will be. But it does show whether a buyer will need a big jump in future prices to cover all the costs of owning — including the down payment, closing costs, property taxes, mortgage interest, repairs and co-op fees.

A simple way to do the comparison is to look at something called the rent ratio: the purchase price of a house divided by the annual cost of renting a similar one. The number 20 provides a useful rule of thumb. When you do the math, you discover that a ratio above 20 means you should at least consider renting, especially if you may move again in the next five years or so. When the ratio is well below 20, the case for buying becomes a lot stronger.

Check out the Interactive Comparison Worksheet and find out if buying is better for you.

In many large metropolitan areas, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and South Florida, the average ratio is now 16 or lower. It was more than 25 in several of these places at the peak of the bubble, about five years ago. With a ratio as low as 16 and interest rates as low as they are, the costs of owning can be less than the costs of renting — and buyers will end up worse off only if prices fall considerably more.

Calculate here – Is buying a house better for you?

Source: David Leonhardt (New York Times)

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