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Survey: Renting a home a better deal in Honolulu, San Francisco

By Star-Advertiser and Bloomberg News


Renting a home is a better deal than buying in Honolulu and San Francisco, where a tight supply of homes pushes prices higher, according to a survey of housing costs by Trulia Inc.

The company's Winter 2012 Rent vs. Buy Index ranks Honolulu as the city with the highest home price-to-rent ratio of 100 major metropolitan areas surveyed. San Francisco is next, followed by New York, San Jose and Orange County.

The higher prices for buying homes in Honolulu and San Francisco goes against the trend in other markets.

Purchasing was cheaper in 98 out of the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas surveyed by the real estate data provider. That's up from 97 regions last year as New York flipped positions in favor of buyers. 

"Buying is cheaper than renting almost everywhere because prices have fallen so much since the housing bubble peaked," Jed Kolko, chief economist with San Francisco-based Trulia, said in an e-mail. "At the same time, rents have been stable or rising in most markets."

However, buying a home in Honolulu and San Francisco might make sense for people who plan to stay in their next home for at least five years and can benefit from the mortgage-interest tax deduction, Trulia said.

As home values have fallen more than 30 percent from their 2006 peak, the monthly cost to lease is roughly the same or more expensive than it is to buy in many U.S. markets, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Monthly apartment rents averaged $1,263 in the fourth quarter, the highest since 2008, according to brokerage CBRE Group Inc.

In Trulia's survey, purchasing was cheapest in the Detroit, Oklahoma City and Dayton, Ohio, areas.

"People will pay more for a home if they expect prices to rise and give them a better return on their investment," Kolko said. "Metros where homeownership is expensive tend to have stronger long-term economic growth and little room to build new homes, like Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area, where people expect home prices to increase over time. Buying is much cheaper than renting in slow-growing places with high vacancy rates and land to spare, like Detroit and Cleveland, where prices are unlikely to improve much in the future."

The report was based on asking prices for sale and rental homes on between Dec. 1 and Feb. 29.

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