By Les Christie
NEW YORK -- For people who are willing to stay put for a few years, buying a home has become a much better deal than renting in almost every major housing market in the nation.
In more than 75 percent of the 200 metro areas analyzed by real estate listing website Zillow, homeowners would reach a "break-even point" -- where owning the home makes better financial sense than renting it -- in three years or less.
"Historic levels of affordability make buying a home a better decision than ever, especially considering rents have risen more than 5 percent over the past year," said Stan Humphries, chief economist for Zillow.
The survey was Zillow's first buy-versus-rent analysis, incorporating all homeownership costs, including down payments, closing costs, mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities and maintenance costs, and compared them to rental costs. It also took into account projected home price appreciation and rent increases, as well as tax deductions and inflation.
Zillow's findings support other reports that show that rising rents, record-low mortgage rates and falling home prices have made homeownership a more attractive option.
In some of the metro areas that Zillow looked at, homebuyers would break even in less than two years.
In Miami, for example, a homebuyer would only have to stay in their home for about 1.6 years for the purchase to pay off, Zillow said.
Homes in the metro area are selling for about 45 percent less than they were five years ago. Meanwhile, over the past three years, rents have climbed 20 percent, according to RentJungle.
Miami's metro area, along with Tampa, Fla., Memphis, Tenn., and several smaller cities, have the shortest break-even times of the markets that Zillow analyzed.
Renters still have the upper hand in some cities. It would take homebuyers in San Jose, Calif., 8.3 years to break even on their homes -- the longest period of time of any of the metro areas Zillow surveyed. Other big cities where buying was not such a good a deal were Honolulu, at a six-year break-even point, and San Francisco at 5.9 years.
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