Trying to decide whether to buy or rent this year? The answer could depend on where you live in the Tampa Bay area. Renting will be cheaper than buying in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties while the opposite will be true in Pasco and Hernando, according to the property database ATTOM Data Solutions. In Pinellas, a resident would spend 42.7 percent of gross income to buy compared to 40 percent to rent. In Hillsborough, it would take 36.5 percent of income to rent versus 38.3 percent to buy. (Percentages are based on average home prices, rents and wages for a county.) The differences are much starker in Tampa Bay's smaller counties. A Pasco resident would spend 37.3 percent of income to buy versus 48 percent to rent. In Hernando, it would take just 34.7 percent of income to buy versus 49 percent to rent. Nationally, renting a home will be the more affordable option in almost 60 percent of U.S. housing markets as prices continue to rise. "With rental affordability outpacing home affordability in the majority of U.S. housing markets, and home prices rising faster than rental rates, the American dream of owning a home may be just that — a dream,'' said Jennifer von Pohlmann, ATTOM's director of content. In counties analyzed for the report, home prices were increasing at an average of 6.7 percent compared to a 3.5 percent increase in rental rates. "Coupled with the fact that home prices are outpacing wages,'' von Pohlmann said, "renting a home is clearly becoming the more attractive option in this volatile housing market.'' The report found that renting is more affordable than buying in the nation's 18 most populous counties, which include Los Angeles, Cook (Chicago), Harris (Houston), Maricopa (Phoenix) and San Diego. In a different report released this week, Zillow said that first-time home buyers in the Tampa Bay area have a median annual income of $70,700. At that amount, they could afford a home costing up to $329,800 and would be able to afford nearly 70 percent of the homes on the market. Contact Susan Taylor Martin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.