Is Buying a House Cheaper Than Renting a Home

Author: Zillow
Published: 2017/05/01 - Updated: 2021/08/08
Peer-Reviewed: N/A
Contents: Summary - Main - Related Publications

Synopsis: Information including facts and figures on purchasing a house versus renting a property with example statistics in various U.S. cities. Zillow analyzed the median rent payment in cities across the country to determine how much home a prospective buyer could afford without spending more on a mortgage than they were currently spending on rent. In Cleveland, prospective buyers can buy a home valued at $174,194 while keeping all monthly housing costs the same - this represents more than 80 percent of homes currently on the market.

Main Digest

Median rent is more expensive than the mortgage payment on a median valued home in the U.S., but many renters struggle to come up with a down payment...

Rent is so high that a typical renter in the U.S. can purchase a home nearly 50 percent more expensive than the median valued home and keep the same monthly housing budget, according to a new Zillow® analysis.

The median rent in the U.S. is $1,416 per month, which is enough to cover the monthly expenses associated with owning a $289,505 home. The median U.S. home value is $196,500.

Rent is More Expensive Than Ever Before

Affordability is a growing concern across the country, and rent requires almost half of the median income in some of the nation's most expensive markets.

A mortgage payment is cheaper than a rental payment on a monthly basis, but saving enough money for the down payment is holding back many renters from crossing over into homeownership.

Zillow analyzed the median rent payment in cities across the country to determine how much home a prospective buyer could afford without spending more on a mortgage than they were currently spending on rent.

Zillow factored in all monthly homeownership costs, such as property taxes, maintenance and insurance (i). In 37 of the 50 cities Zillow analyzed, renters could buy a home worth more than the median valued home in their city without spending more on monthly housing costs.

Renters paying the median rent in Cleveland and Milwaukee can afford to buy a home more than twice as expensive as the local median home value.

In Cleveland, prospective buyers can buy a home valued at $174,194 while keeping all monthly housing costs the same - this represents more than 80 percent of homes currently on the market.

San Francisco is one of the only cities in the country where a monthly rental payment would not cover the costs of owning the median valued home.

Renters in San Francisco who want to keep monthly expenses the same would have to buy a home valued at $865,857, representing just 23 percent of homes currently on the market.

The median home value in the city of San Francisco is over $1 million.

"Renters hesitant to enter the home buying market for fear of not being able to find an affordable home should be encouraged to discover they may have more options than they thought," said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell.

"However, it's worth noting that many of the more affordable homes for sale may be older, smaller and/or located in less-desirable neighborhoods than they might like. The decision between buying and renting is a financial trade-off between saving more each month on a mortgage payment versus spending more on rent but taking advantage of the location and lifestyle amenities urban renting often offers. Recent slowdowns in rent growth may take some of the edge off for renters saving to become homeowners. This is good news, since saving a down payment, qualifying for a loan and finding a home available at a manageable price remain hurdles for millions of aspiring buyers."

Nearly half of all buyers are entering the market for the first-time, according to the 2016 Zillow Group Report on Consumer Housing Trends. The majority of all buyers stay within the same city when they move.

Location Zillow RentIndex(ii) (ZRI) 3/17 Zillow HomeValue Index(iii) (ZHVI), 3/17 Value of Home Affordable without Increasing Mthly Housing Costs Share of Available Inventory
United States $1,416 $196,500 $289,505 56.8%
New York, NY $2,372 $650,000 $484,962 28.7%
Los Angeles, CA $2,863 $622,900 $585,348 27.6%
Chicago, IL $1,650 $220,900 $337,347 57.1%
Philadelphia, PA $1,218 $136,100 $249,023 71.9%
Phoenix, AZ $1,256 $208,600 $256,793 40.6%
Las Vegas, NV $1,245 $212,500 $254,544 47.5%
San Diego, CA $2,503 $558,600 $511,745 31.3%
Dallas, TX $1,393 $163,200 $284,803 24.7%
San Jose, CA $3,310 $862,800 $676,739 28.3%
Jacksonville, FL $1,171 $148,400 $239,414 59.1%
San Francisco, CA $4,235 $1,167,200 $865,857 22.8%
Austin, TX $1,848 $316,800 $377,829 33.2%
Detroit, MI $751 $ 39,100 $153,544 92.2%
Columbus, OH $1,150 $127,400 $235,121 71.2%
Memphis, TN $851 $ 80,200 $173,989 73.5%
Charlotte, NC $1,309 $181,200 $267,629 37.9%
El Paso, TX $998 $113,800 $204,044 64.5%
Boston, MA $2,634 $542,100 $538,529 23.4%
Seattle, WA $2,540 $638,100 $519,310 26.5%
Baltimore, MD $1,301 $124,100 $265,993 79.2%
Denver, CO $2,000 $377,500 $408,906 31.2%
Washington, DC $2,635 $559,200 $538,733 45.3%
Nashville, TN $1,550 $223,800 $316,902 38.8%
Milwaukee, WI $1,138 $105,700 $232,667 86.0%
Tucson, AZ $1,080 $162,000 $220,809 48.1%
Portland, OR $1,895 $414,800 $387,438 31.3%
Omaha, NE $1,308 $151,700 $267,424 49.4%
Albuquerque, NM $1,205 $187,500 $246,366 56.8%
Fresno, CA $1,256 $209,600 $256,793 55.6%
Sacramento, CA $1,543 $293,600 $315,471 60.5%
Mesa, AZ $1,289 $219,100 $263,540 47.2%
Long Beach, CA $2,459 $548,400 $502,749 46.7%
Kansas City, MO $1,042 $119,400 $213,040 53.6%
Virginia Beach, VA $1,562 $255,900 $319,355 57.2%
Colorado Springs, CO $1,425 $246,800 $291,345 32.2%
Atlanta, GA $1,510 $206,800 $308,724 46.6%
Miami, FL $2,093 $299,900 $427,920 45.4%
Oakland, CA $2,973 $676,900 $607,838 52.8%
Cleveland, OH $852 $ 56,300 $174,194 81.9%
Honolulu, HI $2,438 $671,800 $498,456 36.5%
Minneapolis, MN $1,617 $231,200 $330,600 50.3%
Baton Rouge, LA $1,342 $155,800 $274,376 60.3%
New Orleans, LA $1,377 $173,800 $281,531 47.0%
Arlington, TX $1,465 $176,000 $299,523 57.0%
Raleigh, NC $1,400 $221,000 $286,234 28.0%
Wichita, KS $947 $121,000 $193,617 57.7%
Tampa, FL $1,347 $182,700 $275,398 46.3%
Anaheim, CA $2,642 $560,200 $540,164 31.7%
Santa Ana, CA $2,490 $493,900 $509,087 42.0%
Aurora, CO $1,783 $281,000 $364,539 56.0%

(i) This analysis assumes a 20% down payment, and property taxes of 1% of the home value annually, maintenance costs of 1% of the home value annually, and homeowners' insurance of 0.5% each year.

(ii) The Zillow Rent Index (ZRI) is the median Rent Zestimate® (estimated monthly rental price) for a given geographic area on a given day, and includes the value of all single-family residences, condominiums, cooperatives and apartments in Zillow's database, regardless of whether they are currently listed for rent. It is expressed in dollars.

(iii) The Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI) is the median estimated home value for a given geographic area on a given day and includes the value of all single-family residences, condominiums and cooperatives, regardless of whether they sold within a given period. It is expressed in dollars, and seasonally adjusted.

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Attribution/Source(s):

This quality-reviewed publication pertaining to our Disability Housing section was selected for circulation by the editors of Disabled World due to its likely interest to our disability community readers. Though the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or length, the article "Is Buying a House Cheaper Than Renting a Home" was originally written by Zillow, and submitted for publishing on 2017/05/01 (Edit Update: 2021/08/08). Should you require further information or clarification, Zillow can be contacted at the zillow.com website. Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith.

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