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Wednesday, August 20, 2014         

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Buying home brings savings

Current conditions favor ownership over rising rental rates, a new report finds

By Amy Hoak

MarketWatch

POSTED:

Trulia, a real estate website, says it's cheaper to buy a home than rent one in 100 of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States, including Hono­lulu.

CHICAGO » It's much cheaper to buy a home than rent one in 100 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas — even in high-priced Hono­lulu — according to a report released Thursday by the real-estate website Trulia.

"Despite the recent (home) price rebound, rents continue to rise faster than (home) prices, and mortgage rates are near record lows," said Jed Kolko, Trulia's chief economist, in a news release. And that's leading to favorable homeownership costs in most corners of the country.

In its analysis, Trulia looked at the average price of all homes for sale and the average rent of all homes for lease on the website between the beginning of June and the end of August. Averages for the metropolitan areas include properties from the inner cities to the suburbs.

The report reflects increased affordability for homeowners compared with the winter, when Trulia last did this analysis. The last time around, it was better to buy in 98 of the top 100 markets, Kolko said. But mortgage rates have dropped since then, and rents have risen faster than home prices.

According to the report released Thursday, homeownership affordability, compared with renting, was highest in Detroit, where the average cost of owning a home is $349 a month and the average cost of renting one is $1,149 a month.

Other markets where homeownership affordability is high: Gary, Ind.; Oklahoma City; Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla.; and Toledo, Ohio.

On the other end of the spectrum: Hono­lulu, where home affordability, compared with renting, was the lowest of the 100 areas. The monthly cost of homeownership in Hono­lulu is an average $1,519, and the monthly cost of renting is an average $2,007. That's a 24 percent difference of $488 a month.

Other markets where homeownership affordability is lower: San Francisco; New York; San Jose, Calif.; and Los Angeles.

For homeowners, Trulia assumed a 3.5 percent mortgage rate, itemized deductions at the 25 percent federal tax bracket, and a seven-year time horizon to hold on to the property. It included closing costs, maintenance, insurance and property taxes.

For renters it included security deposit and renter's insurance.

Even in a scenario where the homeowner could only obtain a 4.5 percent mortgage, didn't itemize on taxes and planned on staying in the home for only five years, it was cheaper to buy in 96 markets, Kolko said.

Despite more affordability to buy in many markets, often people can't take advantage, Kolko said.

"It takes years to save enough for a down payment, and it takes a high credit score to even qualify for a mortgage, let alone to get the best rate. In the recession, many people found it harder to save — and harder to keep up their credit scores," Kolko said in the release.

"Homeownership makes the most financial sense for people whose strong credit scores let them snag the lowest mortgage rate and who get the biggest benefit from deducting mortgage interest and property taxes from their income taxes," he said.






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