Rent vs. Buy

The housing market across California has had large price gains over the past years, with statewide median prices attaining November 2007 highs. Consumers often contemplating whether it is more beneficial to buy a property now or continue renting. To assist with this decision, C.A.R. has looked at the costs and benefits of renting versus owning property in California and eight of its local regions over a seven year time horizon.

The costs of buying include the monthly mortgage payment, insurance and taxes, and improvements and repairs. These costs were offset by the benefits of buying: mortgage interest and property tax deductions, and investment appreciation. The costs of renting include the monthly rent payment and renter insurance, which were offset by the benefits of renting: the appreciation on investing the down payment in the stock market.

For the State of California, consumers can save 96.5 percent per month by buying a property. At the local level, buying in Los Angeles County will save you 96.4 percent per month.

In several counties, given price and rent appreciation, buying will net the individual income over the seven year time frame. For example, buying in San Francisco and Alameda will net the owner 119 and 106 percent respectively per month over the purchase time horizon.

These results are given with the caveat that the buyer must have on hand the standard 20 percent downpayment, and are driven by the large increases in both rental prices and home prices across the state. Again, over the 7 year horizon buying make sense financially in these counties.

Along with incorporating price levels, the analysis includes tax deduction benefits as many of the costs associated with homeownership general upkeep, inflation, insurance, mortgage rates; as well as the opportunity cost of not investing in the market, and general price levels. On the rental side, it annualizes average rent and rent increases for the county (eg. it would understate the benefit of renting a rent stabilized unit) and includes rental insurance, and security deposits.

Several webpages can provide more personalized recommendations given your own income, and local sitution with regards to purchase and rental prices. Feel free to use our assumptions on markets and prices to guide you: try the Realtor.com Rent Vs. Buy Calculator (click “advanced options” to tailor the analysis for your location.)

California Monthly Expenses Buy Rent
Mortgage/Rent $1,684 $1,803
Insurance & Taxes $509 $20
Improvements & Repairs $198 $0
MID & Tax Deduction Savings -$509 $0
Subtotal $1,881 $1,823
Investment appreciation -$1,842 -$711
Total $39 $1,112
Monthly Savings 98%

For more information, please check the methodology.

To help turn renters into buyers, please check out the Down Payment Resource, which is a search tool that can identify available down payment assistance programs.


The CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Research and Economics Team analyzed the difference between renting and buying a home in light of recent market and policy developments. Housing costs and tax implications of buying a home and renting a home were computed as a part of the analysis.

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