Buy a Home or Rent? A New Calculator Can Help You Decide

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A New York Times interactive calculator helps you weigh which option is best for you.

What makes the most financial sense – buying or renting a home?

It’s a huge decision, with a number of factors to consider. The New York Times said:

In the country’s most expensive places, including New York, the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, buying a home again looks like a perilous investment, based on the relationship between their prices and rents or incomes. And in a longer list of areas, including Boston, Miami and Washington, prices have risen enough that buying is no longer the bargain it looked to be a few years ago.

In an effort to help prospective renters and homebuyers analyze their options, the Times created a comprehensive new buy vs. rent calculator. The calculator factors in a number of homeownership and renting costs, as well as assumptions about how investment income and home values could potentially appreciate.

When I put in the numbers for my 2006 home purchase, the calculator suggested that if I stay in my home for just 15 years, I’d need to pay less than $1,262 a month in rent to make renting the better option. I’ve seen the rental options in my town. There’s no way that would ever happen for a comparable home.

Let’s say we run a similar scenario for a median-priced ($425,000) single-family home in Seattle. Using a 4.25 percent rate on a 30-year mortgage, the monthly rent break-even point is $1,493. According to Zillow, the median rent price in Seattle is $1,781 a month.

You can run different scenarios using the Times calculator here.

What is a better financial decision – buying or renting – where you live? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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