Although home prices skyrocketed last year — more than 10% in most of the country — low interest rates have continued to facilitate homeownership. Combined with rising wages, homeownership remains a cheaper option than renting in the majority of areas, according to a new study by ATTOM Data Solutions. ATTOM came to the same conclusion in 2021.
The real estate data firm tracked three key features across 1,154 U.S. counties: 2022 fair market rent data estimates, single-family home public record sales deed data and wage data. Among those counties, the costs of rent outweighed the costs of owning a median-priced home in 58%.
These results may come as a surprise to those following the real estate market. Over the past year, limited housing inventory, heightened by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, drove prices up and up. But wages also rose 8% on average and interest rates have hovered around 3%. “Home-prices are rising faster than both rents and wages while wages rise faster than rents. And the housing market boom of the past decade keeps pushing home values to new records,” said Todd Teta, the chief product officer with ATTOM. “Yet home ownership still remains the more affordable option for average workers in a majority of the country because it still takes up a smaller portion of their pay.”
In general, however, patterns are trending in favor of renters. According to Teta, this “could be a major force in easing price increases in 2022. Prices can only go up by so much more before renting becomes financially easier.” During 2021, wage growth outpaced rent growth in the majority of markets. As such, renting is the cheaper option in 21 of the country’s 25 most populous counties. This includes major metropolitan areas like Chicago, Los Angeles and Phoenix. The most affordable rental markets are in the South and the Midwest.
In turn, owning is most affordable in less-populated places — though Houston’s Harris County stands as one notable exception. Like rents, the most-affordable home ownership markets are also in the South and the Midwest.