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It is 60% cheaper to hire a house than purchase in prime 50 US metros: research

As of February, it’s cheaper to rent a home than buy one in all of the US’s top 50 metros — and by a staggeringly wide margin, according to a recent study.

For a so-called “starter home” in any of these sought-after cities — which some have argued no longer exist thanks to sky-high borrowing rates and inflationary housing prices — it costs 60.1% less to lease the property than own it on a monthly basis, per Realtor.com’s February 2024 Rental Report.

On average, the stiff premium for homeownership amounts to roughly $1,027 in monthly costs — though in the most sought-after cities, that figure more than doubles.

In Austin, Texas, for example, the gap between renting and buying was the largest, according to Realtor.com’s report that was earlier reported on by the Daily Mail.

Aerial view of the downtown skyline of Austin, Texas with a bridge over a river, illustrating its ranking as the top U.S job market
Though it’s nor more expensive to rent a starter home than buy one in all of America’s top 50 cities, this cost difference is the most apparent in Austin, Texas, Realtor.com found. Getty Images

The monthly cost of buying a starter home — a zero-to-two-bedroom home, per Realtor.com — in the Austin area was $3,695 in February. The sum marked a staggering 141.5%– or $2,165 — more than the typical monthly rent of $1,530 in the Texan capitol.

Seattle’s housing market also boasted a large disparity between buying and renting: The monthly cost of buying a starter home was $4,422 in February, while the median rent was $2,000 — a 121.1% difference, per Realtor.com.

And in Phoenix, Ariz., the cost of renting monthly, an average of $1,543, was nearly half the $3,071 per month it would require to buy.

Though it’s more expensive to buy a home in all of the 50 major metros in the US, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose and Sacramento in California, as well as Nashville, Portland and Houston rounded out the top 10 cities with the biggest difference between buying and renting.

For reference, in Realtor.com’s February 2023 Rental Report, it found that renting a starter home was more affordable than buying in 45 of the largest US cities.

In the 12 months since, Memphis, Tenn.; Birmingham, Ala.; Pittsburgh, Pen.;, St. Louis, Mo.; and Baltimore, Md., have flipped from favoring homeowners to favoring renters, according to the Daily Mail.

Realtor.com — which assumed an 8% downpayment, a mortgage rate of 6.78% and included the cost of taxes, insurance and fees in its calculations — noted that buying a starter home is becoming increasingly more expensive as the price of monthly rents have dropped at a faster rate than buying costs.

In February, buying costs dropped 1.6% in the previous 12 months, while rent costs dropped 4.44%.

The key driver of this was elevated mortgage rates, Realtor.com said.

In February, the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 6.78%, according to the real-estate listings website — up from 6.26% 12 months prior.

A 'For Sale' sign in front of a house in North Haledon, New Jersey on December 19, 2023
In February, buying costs dropped 1.6% in the previous 12 months, while rent costs dropped 4.44%, according to Realtor.com, which attributed the disparity to elevated mortgage rates. Christopher Sadowski

Surging rates have made it so unaffordable to take on a mortgage that there’s a growing number of buyers these days that Redfin calls “nepo” buyers — a reference to the “nepo baby” phenomenon where children of celebrities ride their coattails to gain a foothold on a career.

According to a recent survey from Redfin, 36% of Gen Zers, whose ages range between 12 and 27, and millennials, 28 to 43, are expecting a cash gift from family members in order to fund their downpayment — twice as many as there were just five years ago.

Another 16% are anticipating to use an inheritance to help fund their downpayment, and 13% plan to live with their parents or other family members.

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