The cost of buying a home is rising three times faster than the cost to rent

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As the monthly cost of buying a home continues to trudge upwards, renting is becoming a more affordable option across much of the U.S.

The monthly cost of buying a home — which includes mortgage payments, taxes and insurance — jumped 14% between July 2017 and July 2018, according to a report released Thursday by Realtor.com. Comparatively, it only became 4% more expensive to rent a home over that same period.

That disparity means that for much of the country, it’s now much more affordable to rent than it is to buy. It’s cheaper to buy in only 35% of counties nationwide, and just 41% of the U.S. population lives in those counties.

(Realtor.com is operated by News Corp NWSA, -1.13%  subsidiary Move Inc., and MarketWatch is a unit of Dow Jones, which is also a subsidiary of News Corp.)

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The gap is even greater in counties where the population exceeds 100,000 people — buying is more affordable in only 7% of those counties. Over the past year, 20 counties with 100,000 residents or more shifted from being more affordable for home buyers to being cheaper for renters. Three-quarters of these counties were located in the South and the Midwest, Realtor.com reported.

Top 5 counties favoring buying
Rank County Monthly cost to buy Monthly cost to rent Percent of income to buy Percent of income to rent
1 Clayton County, Ga. $699 $1,236 18% 32%
2 Baltimore City, Md. $1,097 $1,475 27% 36%
3 Wayne County, Mich. (Detroit) $695 $1,040 18% 27%
4 Cumberland County, N.C. $864 $1,012 23% 27%
5 Madison County, Ill. $832 $1,019 17% 21%
Top 5 counties favoring renting
Rank County Monthly cost to buy Monthly cost to rent Percent of income to buy Percent of income to rent
1 New York County, N.Y. (Manhattan) $9,840 $2,086 141% 30%
2 Kings County, N.Y. (Brooklyn) $4,860 $2,086 102% 44%
3 Monterey County, Calif. $4,816 $1,682 85% 30%
4 San Mateo County, Calif. $8,405 $3,471 89% 37%
5 Santa Barbara County, Calif. $4,878 $1,910 81% 32%

This trend, if it continues, could have major ramifications for consumers, said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com. “Even setting aside big upfront expenses like a down payment, rising month-by-month costs are likely keeping many people from purchasing,” Hale said in the report. “Since home ownership has historically been an important source of household wealth creation, it could be problematic if this trend continues for too long. Still, even in places where renting is currently more affordable, rising home prices provide wealth building opportunity for home buyers.”

Indeed, the homeownership rates in the markets that favor renting the most range from 23% to 59%, which is lower than the national rate of 64%.

Relief may be in sight though. A recent report from real-estate website Zillow ZG, +0.44%  found that the rate of home-value appreciation was slowing for two-thirds of the country’s largest housing markets. And housing economists have predicted that the national housing market will shift to a buyer’s market in 2020.

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