This Is Where Renting Is Smarter Than Buying

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Homeownership is a big deal. It's one of the primary ways Americans have been able to build wealth, and when it's thwarted, not being able to buy property hurts communities for generations. In today's housing climate, it might seem obvious to yearn for a mortgage rather than a rent notice — after all, it's much less likely to spike suddenly when your landlord gets fickle. But for huge swaths of Americans, it might not pay off.

Last week, a property database company released its 2020 Rental Affordability Report. The first big number it shares is that "owning a median-priced, three-bedroom home is more affordable than renting a three-bedroom property in 455, or 53 percent, of the 855 U.S. counties analyzed for the report." That seems shocking enough on its own, but digging deeper, the report reveals a more disturbing trend: In the counties with the greatest populations (500,000 or more), renting is more affordable than owning in nearly 70 percent of them, putting homeownership basically out of reach where majorities of young and minority Americans tend to live.

The data doesn't get much more reassuring. In about two-thirds of the housing markets surveyed, home prices are rising faster than both rents and wages. All in all, it's almost no surprise that millennials would rather just stay put. That said, if you are looking to buy, there are definitely ways to get ahead in this deeply ridiculous housing market. Make sure you plan ahead as thoroughly as possible — and if all else fails, until you get there, don't forget just how valuable living with roommates can be.