Millennials locked out of the housing market have this consolation: House prices have shot up so quickly that the financial advantage of being a homeowner is fast eroding in many cities.
While it’s still a better deal to buy in some cities, the economic benefit has narrowed to the point that in some places, for some households, the decision to rent or buy a home may be too close to call.
The shift has come because home prices and interest rates have risen recently, while rents have largely stagnated.
To be sure, owning remains at least a bit cheaper than renting in all 100 of the major cities on Trulia’s list.
Yet that difference has narrowed sharply from last year, when owners were paying roughly 41% less than renters. Add in that many apartment communities have additional amenities that you would pay for if you owned a home as well as eliminating the time spent on home maintenance.
In some popular cities, moreover, the homeowner advantage is close to being erased.
And it wouldn’t take that much to erase those homeowner price advantages altogether, the Trulia data shows. Even a 22% difference could be eliminated if home prices continue to outpace rents — or if interest rates rise.
For instance, Trulia’s calculations are based on a 30-year mortgage rate of 4.1%. If rates climbed 2.7 percentage points to 6.8%, the current homeowner advantage in many cities would disappear completely.
That’s not necessarily an outlandish scenario. While mortgage rates have remained low since the 2008 financial crisis, rates around 7% are much closer to the historical norm. Federal Reserve officials, whose control of short-term interest rates gives them some sway over mortgage prices, expect those short-term rates to rise roughly two to three percentage points over the next few years.
Trulia’s rent vs. buy calculations are based on median homes value and rental prices for April 2017. Trulia also assumed homeowners took out a 30-year mortgage covering 80% of a property’s value and lived in the property for seven years.
That seven-year assumption is key, because there is one scenario where it’s often cheaper to rent than buy: when you plan to stay in a home for just a couple of years.
In that case, one-time costs like the real estate agent’s commission and closing costs loom larger — and you benefit less from your home’s appreciation.