Mark Zandi

Rent vs. own ratio to flip in 2011?

January 4, 2011: 1:41 PM ET

Many Americans are content to rent after witnessing the crumbling housing market in recent years. But with rents on the rise and home prices continuing to fall, a reversal is in sight.

Rent housingIt wasn't hard for many homeowners to bid adieu to 2010. It was the year where, in many metropolitan areas across the country, rents surged as home prices fell, leading a growing chorus of skeptics to question the so-called American Dream of homeownership.

Perhaps not surprisingly, it makes more financial sense to rent than buy today in many U.S. cities, according to the latest data from Moody's Analytics. After declining during the depths of the latest recession, prices for rentals nationwide increased modestly by about 3% in 2010, partly driven by a record number of homeowners looking for new digs after foreclosing on their homes. In Moody's latest list of rent ratios (which is the price of a typical home divided by the annual cost of renting that home) for 54 U.S. metropolitan areas, 39 fell into the 'better to rent' category -- roughly the same level it's been for the past year.

But that may finally be about to change. Moody's chief economist Mark Zandi expects the trend to reverse this year in many major cities. This would be a positive development, as a healthy housing market typically puts renting and owning at more equal footing.

"By mid 2011 and certainly by end of 2011, buying will be superior to renting in most parts of the country," Zandi says. More

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