It's Cheaper to Buy Than to Rent in L.A., But Doing Either Could Bankrupt You

Angelino Heights
Angelino Heights

There's a reason L.A.'s homeless population is growing. Keeping a roof over your head in this city is outrageously expensive. Apartment List says the median rent for a two-bedroom unit in the city was $2,630 last month. Times 12 that's $31,560 a year, more than the median individual income ($27,987) in Los Angeles County.

How we do it is a mystery. But a new report says it's actually cheaper, in the long run, to buy a home than to rent in L.A. Maybe that's the secret. Real estate site Trulia recently released a national "Rent vs. Buy" report that concludes that it's "37.7 percent cheaper nationally to buy than rent a home," according to a spokeswoman.

The story's the same in L.A., where it's 32.7 less expensive to buy than to rent, the site found. It pegs our median rent at $2,600 and our median home price at $536,351. It might be worth noting that other analyses have reported that those prices, especially the buy rate, are higher. Redfin says the median home price here is $615,000.

In any case, Trulia crunched the numbers and found that if you move about every seven years and can afford 20 percent down for a median L.A. home, then owning is the better deal over a seven-year stretch or longer. But who has $107,000 (about 20 percent of Trulia's median home price for Los Angeles) just chilling on ice?

It's hard to get our head around. But Trulia says one of the reasons buying is still so attractive is that interest rates will hold your payments down — relatively speaking — for years to come. While "the benefits of lower mortgage rates have been mostly offset by higher prices," according to Trulia (ya think?), the site says the L.A. median would have to reach near $1 million to make renting a better economic proposition.

"The median price would have to jump to $815,253, or rates would have to jump to 102.2 percent, for the sales to tip in favor of renting — both cases of which are unlikely," said Trulia spokeswoman Cecilia Xia.

The top cities in which buying really beats renting include Miami (No. 1, where buying will cost 53.2 percent less), West Palm Beach (second; 53.2), Houston (third; 52.9), Fort Lauderdale (fourth; 52.9) and Charleston, South Carolina (fifth; 52.5).

Trulia found that Orange County and San Diego were among the markets where the smallest jump in interest rates would make renting more advantageous. Still, those rates would have to be relatively high, 6.9 percent and 7.2 percent for O.C. and San Diego, respectively. 

This all makes owning sound like a piece of cake. A very expensive piece of cake.

It's Cheaper to Buy Than to Rent in L.A., But Doing Either Could Bankrupt You
Trulia

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