Renting: I was just ahead of my time

The New York Times has an article about the relative merits of renting vs buying a house, now the the housing bubble has deflated. They also have a nifty web-based calculator to compare the alternatives. They conclude that today, renting is usually the better choice.

It’s now clear that people who chose renting over buying in the last two years made the right move. In much of the country, including large parts of the Northeast, California, Florida and the Southwest, recent home buyers have faced higher monthly costs than renters and have lost money on their investment in the meantime. It’s almost as if they have thrown money away, an insult once reserved for renters.

Buyers in many places are basically betting that home prices will rise smartly in the near future.

Over the next five years, which is about the average amount of time recent buyers have remained in their homes, prices in the Los Angeles area would have to rise more than 5 percent a year for a typical buyer there to do better than a renter. The same is true in Phoenix, Las Vegas, the New York region, Northern California and South Florida. In the Boston and Washington areas, the break-even point is about 4 percent.

Keep in mind that the 2000-5 boom was even bigger than the ’80s boom and that house prices on the coasts, according to the official numbers at least, have fallen only slightly so far. So it is hard to imagine that prices will rise 5 percent a year, or another 28 percent in all, over the next five years.