Trulia: Owning Costs 44% Less than Renting

Home price gains may be outpacing increases in rent, but the cost of being a homeowner is still much less than that of a renter, according to Trulia’s Winter 2013 Rent vs. Buy report.

After factoring all cost components including transaction costs, taxes, and opportunity costs, Trulia found buying a home is 44 percent cheaper than renting, down slightly from 46 percent a year ago.

“Although buying a home is still cheaper than renting, the gap is closing,” said Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist. “In 2013, home prices should rise faster than rents, and mortgage rates are likely to rise in the next year as the economy improves. By next year, buying could be more expensive than renting in some housing markets, even for people with the best credit.”

In the last year, asking home prices showed a 7 percent gain compared to a 3.2 percent increase in rents during the same time period, according to data from the real estate site.

Trulia explained low mortgage rates have kept the cost of owning down; for the analysis, a 3.5 percent mortgage rate was assumed.

The San Francisco-based company also revealed that out of the 100 largest metros analyzed, buying was more affordable than renting in all metros.

In some metros, the cost of buying was much less than the national average. The buy-rent gap was the largest in Detroit, where buying costs 70 percent less than renting. For the next four metros in top five, the cost of owning was 63 percent less than renting; the four metros were Dayton and Cleveland in Ohio; Warren, Michigan; and Gary, Indiana.

Although owning was found to be less expensive in all metros, owners in San Francisco averaged the smallest savings at 19 percent, a steep decrease from the 35 percent savings seen in 2012.

If one were to receive a mortgage rate of 4.5 percent, Trulia noted the cost of buying would be just 9 percent cheaper in San Francisco. However, a rate of 4.5 percent would still make buying more affordable than renting in all metros analyzed.

“People who didn’t buy a home last year may have missed the bottom of the market, but they haven’t completely missed the boat,” Kolko added. “Even buyers who can’t get today’s lowest mortgage rates will still find that buying makes more financial sense than renting in nearly all local markets – so long as they can get a mortgage in the first place.”

Other metros where owning may not be as enticing to borrowers based on savings were Honolulu, where the cost of owning is 23 percent cheaper, followed by San Jose (-24 percent), New York (-26 percent) and Albany (-30 percent).

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Home Staging–Things That Help (Or Hinder)

Silly Staging Ideas Room-by-Room:

Living Room. Displaying photos of people more attractive than family members by hanging frames with manufacturers’ photos still inside, or even displaying photos of celebrities around the room, are not good ideas. Not only silly, this breaks the ‘de-personalize’ staging rule. Remove any photos, diplomas or similar items, as they do nothing but distract buyers.  Look for some tasteful art for staging instead.

Kitchen and Dining Room. Nothing screams ‘staged home’ like a formally set dining room. Less is more! Skip the formal setting and put a simple vase of flowers on the table instead. Clear kitchen counters of all clutter and add a simple bowl of fruit for a clean, open look.

Bedroom. The casually draped throw over the foot of the bed with ‘tea for two’ on top has been overdone, and buyers know you don’t live that way. Invest in some nice bedding, put night tables on either side of the bed and include one long dresser and a tall chest of drawers in the master bedroom. If the room seems crowded with those items, use a double bed instead of a queen or king.

Bathroom.Tassels draped over hand towels, seashells nestled atop a stack of towels wrapped in a bow and champagne flutes on the bathtub are perhaps befitting for a honeymoon suite, but not a family home. Don’t fill the bathtub with blue-tinted water and don’t tie a ribbon around the toilet seat either. These have been done, but don’t make the same silly mistake. Invest in new hand towels, a new shower curtain and remove personal items from countertops such as toothbrushes and makeup.

A buyer won’t buy based on dining room settings or a frou-frou bathroom. After staging your home, you want a clean, de-personalized, clutter-free space. If you’ve done a good job, a buyer won’t be able to tell it was staged at all.

Top 10 Mistakes Home Buyers Make

Mistake #1: Waiting for the market to improve or not buying at all

No one can predict precisely where the market is going, so trying to time your home purchase with the bottom of the market is futile. If you’re financially and emotionally ready to be a homeowner, it’s always a good time to buy. Just think: all the time you spend procrastinating on purchasing a home, you could be building equity, getting tax deductions and enjoying the many other benefits of homeownership

Mistake #2: Making an offer without contingencies

When you’re buying a home, Plan A is always to buy the home on the terms in the original contract. Plan B is to buy the home after renegotiating some of the terms. Plan C is the contingency plan: if there is an irresolvable flaw in the condition of the home, the home doesn’t appraise for the purchase price, or your lender refuses to fund your loan for whatever reason, you can back out of the transaction with no penalty (other than the money you’ve spent on inspections) so long as you have the appropriate contingencies in place. Remember, contingency = the right to bail.

Mistake #3: Not reading the fine print

If you did your homework, you had your trustworthy real estate attorney review all your paperwork and discuss it with you so you don’t get a nasty surprise at closing.

Mistake #4: Forgoing a home inspection

Even if a home looks flawless, it’s a mistake to assume that it’s actually problem-free. All homes have defects — even brand new ones — so getting a professional inspection before making the commitment to buy is crucial. Be sure to attend the inspection so the inspector can explain any issues

Mistake #5: Falling for love at first sight

Buying the first house you like is kind of like marrying the first person you go on a date with: not necessarily a good idea. If you don’t shop around and see what else is out there, you could miss out on a good deal or potentially regret your purchase.

Mistake #6: Buying a house you can’t afford

Just because a lender is willing to loan you a fortune doesn’t mean you should take it. Buying more home than you can afford can quickly lead to financial trouble. As a rule of thumb, your mortgage payment should be less than 28 percent of your gross monthly income. Besides your mortgage payment, be prepared for the additional costs of homeownership, such as insurance, property taxes, utilities and maintenance

Mistake #7: Buying a foreclosure or fixer-upper without doing your research

Some homebuyers are so set on finding a bargain, they overlook the fact that buying a home that needs repairs can be a stressful and expensive endeavor. Before buying a fixer-upper, get estimates on any necessary repairs and renovations and make sure they will pay for themselves in increased property value

Mistake #8: Not researching the neighborhood

What good is having your dream home, if you don’t like the community where it’s located? Before shopping for a home, shop for a neighborhood. Make sure it’s a good fit for your lifestyle — figure out how long you want your work commute to be, how close you want to be to amenities like shopping and nightlife, and which school districts are the best. Even if you don’t have children, living near good schools raises your property value.

Mistake #9: Thinking short-term

The house you purchase should be a place that feels like home to you and your family, but it’s important to remember that it’s also a huge investment. When shopping for a home, it pays to think about resale down the road. Search for homes in sought-after locations, and look for features that future buyers will want, such as central air conditioning and lots of storage space.

Mistake #10: Not getting pre-approved before house hunting

Why get your hopes up looking at $500,000 homes, when you can really only afford a $300,000 home? Before you start house hunting, narrow down your price range by getting pre-approved. Shop for a lender or mortgage broker you can trust. The mortgage pro will review your credit, income, assets and debts, and recommend a mortgage with monthly payments that fit your budget. The result is a good faith estimate, a document that spells out the likely terms of your loan, including the interest rate and closing costs. Not only does this let you know how much house you can afford, it also lets sellers know that you’re serious about buying.