When the COVID-19 pandemic hit America and sent people fleeing from small apartments in the biggest cities, it immediately propelled rent and home prices in opposite directions. However, despite quickly escalating home prices, there are still many places across the country where the typical monthly mortgage payment is on par or below market rent, offering opportunities for both prospective home buyers and real estate investors.
There is plenty of evidence to confirm that homes are indeed getting more expensive, especially in relation to rental units. Just before the start of 2020, home and rent prices were growing at the same rate: 3.7% year-over-year, according to the Federal Reserve’s tracking of the urban rent and home price indexes. Within months, however, rental costs experienced an uncharacteristic cooling off that slowed growth to less than 2% annually by April 2021. Meanwhile, the effects of the pandemic nearly quadrupled the growth rate of home prices, catapulting it to 14.6% by April 2021.
While at first glance these trends might indicate the relative unaffordability of owning when compared to renting, record-low mortgage rates have dramatically pushed down the monthly costs associated with homeownership. Long gone are the days of 15% interest rates from the early 1980s; they’ve been below 5% for an entire decade, and at the start of 2021, the 30-year mortgage rate set a new all-time record low at 2.65%. For potential buyers who have been able to save enough for a down payment or for investors looking to maximize cash flow on a rental property, affordable options still exist in a wide range of markets.
Outside of the trendiest destinations, like Idaho, Utah, and other hotspots in the Northwest and Northeast, market rents are actually higher than the monthly mortgage payment and associated property taxes for a median-priced home. When factoring in mortgage payments and property taxes compared to rent, the range of affordability favoring owners encompasses more than half the nation, including all of the South and some states beyond.
Homeowners and investors get the best deal in West Virginia, where a mortgage payment and property taxes is about half as costly as renting, as well as in Mississippi and the states surrounding it, most of which are more than 30% cheaper to own on a monthly basis. Even other high-growth states like Texas and Florida register 8.6% and 19% discounts for owners.
Note that the comparison only factors in mortgage payments and property taxes. Other costs, such as insurance, HOA fees, and maintenance, also influence the affordability of owning versus renting or the cash flow associated with a rental property investment. But the data serves as a reliable directional indicator of where owning is most comparable, or even preferable, to renting.
To find the states where it’s cheaper to buy than rent, researchers at Stessa analyzed data from Zillow, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Census Bureau. They calculated the percentage difference between owner payments for a median-priced home and median rent estimates. Owner payments include the mortgage and associated property taxes based on a current 30-year fixed mortgage with a 20% down payment.
The analysis found that in Utah, homeowners pay 38.8% more on mortgage payments and property taxes each month than renters spend on rent. Out of all U.S. states, Utah is the 2nd most expensive for homeowners compared to renters. Here is a summary of the data for Utah:
- Difference between monthly owner & renter payments: +38.8%
- Median monthly mortgage & property taxes: $1,728
- Median monthly rent: $1,245
- Median home price: $450,745
For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:
- Difference between monthly owner & renter payments: -12.9%
- Median monthly mortgage & property taxes: $1,221
- Median monthly rent: $1,402
- Median home price: $287,148
For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Stessa’s website: https://www.stessa.com/blog/cities-cheaper-buy-vs-rent/