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Robert Trigaux

Analysis: In Tampa Bay market, finally, it's cheaper to buy a home than rent



forsalehomesign.jpgWake up and good morning. How can you tell when prices in a housing market start to represent good value? One way is to compare whether buying a home is finally cheaper than renting a comparable place to live. That time apparently has arrived in Tampa Bay, courtesy of the decline in home prices and record lows in mortgage rates.

At least that's what Citi MBS Research says in its analysis of mortgage payments versus rent in various metro areas. The analysis says at the peak of the housing cycle, when home prices were highest, it typically cost 70 percent more to own a home in Tampa Bay than to rent an apartment there. Now it costs 30 percent less to own a home here than to rent. That's quite a swing in a matter of a few years which, of course, mostly reflects the sharp drop in housing prices but may also reflect high local rental rates that have not budged much in this recession.

Among major metro markets, Tampa Bay's mortgage-versus-rent shift is significant. Only four metro areas -- Atlanta, Detroit, Las Vegas and Phoenix -- have experienced a sharper shift towards cheaper housing costs. And some other metro areas -- notably Boston, New York, San Francisco and Seattle -- still show that renting is cheaper than homeownership. Check out the complete comparison of metro areas in the table found here.

for-rent-sign.jpgNotes this recent Barron's article: "The math for home buyers looks pretty good. Someone buying a new $225,000 home with a $200,000 loan at 4.5% would pay about $1,000 a month in mortgage principal and interest. Add in taxes and upkeep and the costs still look appealing compared with renting, especially with the tax benefits."

If these numbers hold true, it's major news for Tampa Bay's real estate industry and its horrendous backlog of homes. If most potential home buyers are sitting on the fence and waiting for home prices to fall further, that means many of them may be renting. At the least, they will better understand they are "losing" money by not buying.

That's hardly a cure-all to our housing market woes. People still assume housing prices will decline further, which is the biggest impediment to acquiring homes. But documenting that it is significantly more expensive to rent? That's a start in the battle to win over public opinion on the merits of home ownership.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist




[Last modified: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 6:42am]


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