Friday, March 13, 2009

Rent-versus-own balance shifting

As home prices continue to drop, the rent versus buy equation keeps changing. From "Renters lose edge on homeowners" Wednesday in the Wall St. Journal:

Now, after two years of rapid home-price depreciation, the relationship between the cost of rental payments versus after-tax mortgage payments is tilting toward ownership in a number of metropolitan areas.

Over the past 18 years, after-tax mortgage payments have averaged 26% more than rent payments, according to Green Street Advisors, a real-estate consultancy based in Newport Beach, Calif. In 2006, at the height of the housing bubble, mortgage payments reached as high as 66% more than rent payments. But by the end of 2008, average monthly rent for the largest 50 metropolitan areas was $1,045, compared with after-tax mortgage payments of $1,300, assuming a rate of 5.5% on a 30-year fixed mortgage. That means mortgage payments averaged just 24% more than rent payments, the narrowest gap since 2001. ...

In Los Angeles, for example, mortgage payments averaged 60% more than rent payments between 1990 and 2008. Now, those payments average 30% more than rent.

"We're not saying on an absolute basis that it's cheaper to own a home, but on a relative basis ... owning is looking much more attractive than it has in a long time," said Andrew McCulloch, a Green Street analyst. While the shift doesn't mean that renters will rush to buy homes soon, "it's not a 'no-brainer' anymore if they're going to rent versus own," he said....

Carla Zeineh, 22, and her husband recently began shopping for a home in Irvine, Calif., and discovered that with a 5% mortgage rate, her monthly payment on a $350,000 two-bedroom home with 20% down could be less than the $1,800 month that they pay in rent on their two-bedroom condo.

Between the $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit from the stimulus package and the $10,000 incentive for Californians to buy newly built homes, the rent-versus-own tipping point may not be far off for some.

I've got two properties for buyers right now that will both cost less than $1400 monthly including tax and insurance. Both are within 10 minutes of Downtown L.A. and 15 minutes from Silverlake or Hollywood. The time to buy is here.