Buying beats renting in most of America



By: Trey Garrison 

We already know that buying a home is cheaper than renting in most major metros, but now comes evidence that buying a home is a better financial decision than renting for homebuyers who plan to stay in their home for at least two years in half of all U.S. markets.

The first quarter Zillow (Z) breakeven horizon analysis shows that among the 35 largest metro areas analyzed, more than half have a breakeven point of less than two years.

“Rents keep rising, and mortgage interest rates remain very low, which is helping to skew the rent vs. buy decision toward buying for those who can afford it. Many renters may ask themselves why renew a lease, when you can break even on the same home in less time in many areas,” said Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries. “However, some renters still have to overcome significant hurdles before they can pull the trigger on homeownership. For those renters who can’t qualify for a mortgage or aren’t able to save enough for a down payment on a house, renting can be a more flexible, and often far less frustrating option for many people.”

Because conditions for buyers and renters can vary dramatically even within cities themselves, Zillow produces breakeven horizons down to the neighborhood level in order to give potential buyers and renters the most insight into local conditions where they’re considering living. (The tool is located on the Zillow website.)

For example, the breakeven horizon for the city of San Francisco is 2.8 years, but home shoppers who purchase in the Bayview neighborhood will break even after 1.4 years, while those who buy in Presidio Heights will need to stay in their home 11.7 years for buying to be a better financial decision.

Zillow’s breakeven horizon takes into account all possible costs associated with buying and renting, including upfront payments, closing costs, anticipated monthly rent and mortgage payments, insurance, taxes, utilities and maintenance costs.

It then factors in historic and anticipated home value appreciation rates, rental prices and rental appreciation rates to help calculate the point, in years, at which buying becomes less expensive than renting.

The four markets with the shortest breakeven horizon were:

4) Miami-Fort Lauderdale

1.2 years to the break even horizon.

3) Tampa

1.1 years to the break even horizon

2) Orlando

One year to the break even horizon

And the number one market?


1) Riverside, Calif.

In less than one year, buyers can break even.

Riverside (less than 1 year), Orlando (1 year), Tampa (1.1 years) and Miami- Fort Lauderdale (1.2 years).

For the six large metros with the longest breakeven horizon, click below.


According to the first quarter Zillow (Z) breakeven horizon analysis shows that among the 35 largest metro areas analyzed, more than half have a breakeven point of less than two years.

These are the metros with the slowest breakeven horizons.

6) Tie – Minneapolis and Baltimore

Both cities have a 3.1 year break even horizon.

4) San Diego

The classy city has 3.2 year break even horizon.

3) Phoenix

Phoenix has a 3.3. year break even horizon.

2) Boston

Boston takes 4 years to break even. (And longer to win the World Series.)

And the city with the longest breakeven horizon was:


1) Washington, D.C.

It takes 4.2 years to break even in Washington.

(No wonder elected officials think they have to stay so long.)

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