Buy-versus-rent analysis by neighborhood

Zillow has calculated the break-even horizon down to the ZIP code level. In some cities, the time frame varies by 10 years.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate May 17, 2013 6:12AM

(© Gregor Schuster/Getty Images)The latest calculator to help you decide whether to buy or rent your dwelling lets you drill down to the ZIP code level.


Zillow’s new analysis of data from the first quarter of 2013 found that buying a home is a better financial move in 64% of U.S. metro areas if you plan to stay in the home at least three years.


But even within those metro areas, the decision varies by exactly where you want to live. For the first time, Zillow did the calculations down to the ZIP code. You can use the drop-down section below the map to break down the metro by city and then by neighborhood and also download more specific data.


The large metro areas where you could break even in the shortest time by buying were Miami, two years, but good luck finding a house to buy; Detroit, two years; and Phoenix, 2.1 years. Among the 30 largest metros, those with the longest time frame for breaking even were New York, 5.2 years; Boston, 4.1 years; and San Jose, Calif., 3.7 years.

But there is significant variation within those metro areas. In the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, for example, the time you need to live in the home to break even ranged from 1.1 to 4.4 years. In New York, the range was 2.5 years to 11.5 years. In Los Angeles, where the average break-even point was 3.5 years, the break-even point in various neighbors ranged from 1.9 to 12.9 years.

Zillow did the math for 11,616 ZIP codes, 7,702 neighborhoods, 8,546 cities, 495 counties and 266 metropolitan areas. The national break-even horizon is 3.1 years.


Obviously, whether to buy or rent depends not only on financial calculations but on your personal situation.

"The decision to buy or rent should always take into account a number of factors, one of which is how long a buyer or renter plans to stay in a property," Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries said in a news release. "Even in areas with relatively low break-even horizons, buyers should resist the temptation to buy and sell properties based only on short-term goals. And renters in these areas should never feel compelled to stretch themselves to buy if it is currently beyond their means."


Here is how long you’d need to live in a home to make buying the better financial choice in each of the 30 largest metros, plus the spread within those metros:

  • New York: 5.2 years (2.5 to 11.5 years)
  • Boston: 4.1 years (2.4 to 7.1 years)
  • San Jose: 3.7 years (2.8 to 5.1 years)
  • Philadelphia: 3.6 years (1 to 10.6 years)
  • Seattle: 3.6 years (2.3 to 4.9 years)
  • Los Angeles: 3.5 years (1.9 to 12.9 years)
  • Washington, D.C.: 3.5 years (1.2 to 7 years)
  • San Francisco: 3.4 years (2.1 to 6.2 years)
  • San Diego: 3.5 years (2 to 7.2 years)
  • St. Louis: 3.3 years (1 to 8.2 years)
  • Las Vegas: 3 years (1.1 to 9.9 years)
  • Portland, Ore: 3 years (2.2 to 4.1 years)
  • Baltimore, Md.: 2.9 years (1.1 to 4.6 years)
  • Chicago: 2.8 years (1.1 to 8.3 years)
  • Denver: 2.8 years (2 to 4.1 years)
  • Charlotte, N.C.: 2.8 years (1.5 to 4.1 years)
  • Columbus, Ohio: 2.7 years (1.2 to 8.8 years)
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.: 2.6 years (1.7 to 3.5 years)
  • Sacramento, Calif.: 2.6 years (2 to 5.2 years)
  • Atlanta: 2.5 years (1.1 to 4.5 years)
  • Pittsburgh: 2.5 years (1.1 to 4.8 years)
  • Cincinnati: 2.5 years (1.3 to 4 years)
  • Orlando, Fla.: 2.4 years (1.3 to 3.8 years)
  • Cleveland: 2.4 years (1.1 to 3.9 years)
  • Dallas-Fort Worth: 2.3 years (1 to 4.9 years)
  • Tampa: 2.3 years (1 to 4.3 years)
  • Riverside, Calif.: 2.2 years (1 to 4.2 years)
  • Phoenix: 2.1 years (1.4 to 3 years)
  • Detroit: 2 years (1.1 to 4.4 years)
  • Miami-Fort Lauderdale: 2 years (1.1 to 4.4 years)


May 18, 2013 10:59PM
For short term purpose going for a rented house is a good option but if you are looking for long term perspective in a particular location then going for a purchase is a good option. And specially for metro cities like Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai where the rents are very high it is better to pay EMI of house than paying rent.
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