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Buying Beats Renting in Less Than Two Years, But Millennials Still Have Reason to Rent

For young workers, who change jobs every few years on average, the local Breakeven Horizon is a crucial consideration.

- The U.S. Breakeven Horizon remained 1.9 years, meaning home buyers break even on a home purchase in less than two years in 70 percent of housing markets, compared to renting the same home.

- The Breakeven Horizon in some of the nation's most popular job markets is between two and three years, making it a crucial consideration for millennials, who typically spend about three years at a time with a single employer.

- Among the largest 35 markets, the longest Breakeven Horizon is in Washington, D.C.: 4.5 years. The shortest is in Dallas: 1.3 years.

Feb 4, 2016

SEATTLE, Feb. 4, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Home buyers in Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. have to stay in a home for at least three years to break even on a home purchase, and buyers in the Bay Area would have to stay nearly that long to make buying financially advantageous, according to Zillow's Breakeven Horizoni analysis for the fourth quarter of 2015.

Those under 35 stay employed at the same place for an average of three yearsii, so buying may not make sense for them, from a financial standpoint, even if paying a mortgage would be more affordable.

In general, Americans can break even on a home purchase in less than two years in 70 percent of U.S. metros, thanks to low interest rates, healthy home value forecasts, and the relatively fast pace of rents in recent years.

The Breakeven Horizon is featured in the paperback edition of Zillow Talk: Rewriting the Rules of Real Estate (Grand Central Publishing, Jan. 26), as one of the major data points to consider when deciding whether to rent or buy. On average in the U.S., you don't need to plan on living in a home for even two years to make purchasing the home more financially advantageous than renting it over the same time period. Among large housing markets, the Breakeven Horizon is longest in Washington, D.C. – 4.5 years – and shortest in Dallas – 1.3 years.

Around the country over the last year, the Breakeven Horizon quickened in most of the Midwest and Southeast as well as in the Northeast corridor from New York to Boston. The Horizon stretched longer in Florida, Northern California, and in the Northeast from Virginia Beach to Philadelphia, but it remained clear that financially, it's still a better deal to buy a home than rent it, assuming you're planning to stay in the home for at least a couple years.

However the decision to buy may not be so simple for millennials – whose first jobs often take them to job centers with relatively high Breakeven Horizons. Boston, one of the nation's youngest cities, has a Breakeven Horizon of just over three years. San Francisco's Breakeven Horizon is 2.9 years, up from 2.6 years in the fourth quarter of 2014. Both markets are attracting young people following jobs, and many of those remain renters despite record-high rental costs.

"Even with record-high rents in job centers like San Jose, Boston and Washington, D.C., putting off a home purchase might be the best financial decision for a young person who has saved enough for a down payment, depending on how long they intend to stay in their jobs and homes," said Zillow Chief Economist Svenja Gudell. "Young workers face a lot of hurdles on the way to homeownership, including saving for a down payment in the first place and deciding where and when to settle down. The latest Breakeven Horizon gives young people another data point to consider when they're making this important financial decision."

In general, rents are flattening across the country and expected to continue to stabilize, a factor that could lengthen the Breakeven Horizon as homes continue to appreciate. Condominiums – a common choice for young home buyers in urban neighborhoods – have a longer Breakeven Horizon because of condo association fees.

Metro Area

Q4 2015 Breakeven Horizon (years)

Q4 2014 Breakeven Horizon (years)

Zillow Rent Index, Q4 2015

United States

1.9

1.9

$1,381

Washington, D.C.

4.5

4.2

$2,107

Los Angeles, CA

4.1

5.1

$2,491

San Diego, CA

3.4

3.8

$2,316

San Jose, CA

3.2

2.7

$3,431

New York/ Northern New Jersey

3.1

3.4

$2,384

Boston, MA

3.1

3.4

$2,247

Baltimore, MD

3.0

2.9

$1,714

San Francisco, CA

2.9

2.6

$3,338

Philadelphia, PA

2.8

2.4

$1,558

Miami, FL

2.5

1.7

$1,822

Phoenix, AZ

2.3

2.3

$1,249

Minneapolis, MN

2.2

2.2

$1,500

Chicago, IL

2.1

2.2

$1,633

Portland, OR

2.1

2.0

$1,689

Sacramento, CA

2.1

2.2

$1,599

Tampa, FL

1.9

1.5

$1,296

Orlando, FL

1.9

1.6

$1,343

Seattle, WA

1.9

1.9

$1,931

Austin, TX

1.9

2.1

$1,683

Riverside, CA

1.8

1.5

$1,691

Pittsburgh, PA

1.8

1.6

$1,090

Charlotte, NC

1.7

2.0

$1,221

St. Louis, MO

1.7

1.6

$1,123

Denver, CO

1.7

1.6

$1,952

Las Vegas, NV

1.7

1.5

$1,212

Columbus, OH

1.7

2.0

$1,271

Cincinnati, OH

1.6

1.7

$1,225

Cleveland, OH

1.5

1.8

$1,124

San Antonio, TX

1.5

1.6

$1,301

Kansas City, MO

1.5

1.6

$1,199

Houston, TX

1.5

1.5

$1,579

Atlanta, GA

1.4

1.5

$1,274

Detroit, MI

1.4

1.3

$1,132

Indianapolis, IN

1.3

1.3

$1,181

Dallas, TX

1.3

1.2

$1,500

 

About Zillow
Zillow® is the leading real estate and rental marketplace dedicated to empowering consumers with data, inspiration and knowledge around the place they call home, and connecting them with the best local professionals who can help. In addition, Zillow operates an industry-leading economics and analytics bureau led by Zillow's Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. Dr. Gudell and her team of economists and data analysts produce extensive housing data and research covering more than 450 markets at Zillow Real Estate Research. Zillow also sponsors the quarterly Zillow Home Price Expectations Survey, which asks more than 100 leading economists, real estate experts and investment and market strategists to predict the path of the Zillow Home Value Index over the next five years. Zillow also sponsors the biannual Zillow Housing Confidence Index (ZHCI) which measures consumer confidence in local housing markets, both currently and over time. Launched in 2006, Zillow is owned and operated by Zillow Group (NASDAQ: Z and ZG), and headquartered in Seattle.

Zillow is a registered trademark of Zillow, Inc.

i The breakeven horizon is the number of years after which buying is more financially advantageous than renting (at the precise breakeven horizon one can be indifferent between buying and renting). We computed the breakeven horizon for each household by comparing the costs of owning a home versus renting a home at the end of each year for 30 years (assuming the house is purchased using a 30 year fixed mortgage). Our buy versus rent analysis incorporated all possible costs incurred when purchasing a home as well as those incurred when renting a home to make the comparison between these costs as realistic as possible. The full methodology can be found here: http://www.zillow.com/research/rent-vs-buy-breakeven-horizon-analysis-methodology-updated-3549/
ii According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median years of tenure with current employer for employed 25-34-year-old workers was 3 years in 2014. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/tenure.t01.htm

 

SOURCE Zillow

For further information: Emily Heffter, Zillow, press@zillow.com


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