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Renting vs. buying a home in Tampa. Here's the lowdown on when you break even.

When does buying make more financial sense than renting? Here's a look at the Tampa numbers. (Times files)
Published Oct. 5, 2018

Buying versus renting a home is a conundrum many of us have faced.

Do you want to spend your weekends fixing stuff and sweating about whether the insurance is paid up or would you rather leave that to a landlord?

On the flip side, owning means not getting booted when the lease runs out. The boost in equity that comes with a rising market is a nice perk, too.

To help, SmartAsset is out with its latest look at how quickly buying pays off. The financial technology company calculated that it would take 4.1 years for a buyer in Tampa to break even. In other words, all things being equal, you should rent if you don't plan to stick around for at least four years.

Among major cities, four years was a fairly quick pay off. Tampa benefited from relatively low home prices — SmartAsset pegged the average at $191,536 — which makes it easier to pay down. Tampa also had higher average rents ($1,349 a month) compared to similar cities.

Topping the list in the time it takes to break even: Detroit (2.6 years) and Philadelphia (2.9 years), two cities with shrinking populations.

"The result is a housing supply far larger than demand, and, in turn, bargain basement prices," the report found.

In New York City, it takes 18.3 years to break even, the longest of the major cities. San Jose (16.7) and Seattle (14.9) rounded out the top three.

You can find SmartAsset's report here.

A GROWING THREAT: Corporate debt hits all-time highs. Could it trigger the next recession?

•••

You seem to be interested in new ways to buy and sell a home, given how my email inbox lit up last week after writing about Opendoor coming to the Tampa Bay market.

The company, like its main competitor Offerpad, makes cash offers at competitive prices to buy homes that are in good shape. They then quickly clean them up and put them back on the market, making most of their money from a 5 to 7 percent service fee they collect from the seller.

To answer some of your questions:

No, I haven't tried it myself, but I'd consider it.

Yes, they actually buy homes, but they won't buy every home.

No, it's not a fly-by night scam. Both have been in business for several years and have deep-pocketed backers. Of course, that doesn't guarantee survival, and like all companies, they are sure to have disagreements with clients.

Yes, both companies plan to expand to other parts of Florida.

As of this week, Offerpad has about 120 homes for sales in the Tampa Bay area, with more near Lakeland, Ocala and Sarasota. Opendoor has about 50, though it hasn't officially opened in Pinellas County.

So far, that's just a blip among the more than 9,500 single-family homes for sale in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties, according to the Realtors' multiple listing service.

•••

One of the better known TV business correspondents is coming to town to talk about where the economy is headed.

Ali Velshi, MSNBC anchor and NBC senior economic and business reporter, will be at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg on Tuesday evening. Velshi, the author of Gimme My Money Back and co-author of How to Speak Money, will talk about tax reform, trade wars and why wages have remained stagnant, despite ultra low unemployment.

Indira Lakshmanan, executive editor of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and former ethics chair at Poynter, will moderate the talk, which is part of Poynter's Community Conversations series.

For more information, including how to buy tickets, go to www.poynter.org/Velshi.

RELATED: More business news

Contact Graham Brink at gbrink@tampabay.com. Follow @GrahamBrink.

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