Trulia: Buying 32% Cheaper Than Renting in DC Area

by Lark Turner

A one-bedroom at Louis on 14th runs more than $2,000 a month.

It’s still cheaper to buy than to rent in the DC area if you can bring a good-sized down payment to the table, according to a study from Trulia.

In the DC area, the real estate site’s latest Rent v. Buy study found that buying is 32 percent cheaper than renting. That’s just slightly less than the nationwide average of 33 percent. The study assumes home buyers use a traditional 30-year fixed rate mortgage with a 20 percent down payment.

But as we recently noted in a story on the breakeven point — the length of time it takes to live in a place before buying makes sense over renting — residents have to make about a five-year commitment to living in DC proper before buying actually makes financial sense over renting. That’s because the overhead costs of buying initially outpace rental costs.

Trulia’s data show that the buying advantage persists in spite of home prices rising faster than rents. Low mortgage rates have helped keep buying a good deal, while rents have only risen at a slightly slower rate than prices —  3.7 percent vs. 3.9 percent.

In its study, Trulia also looked at homeowner’s association fees and whether they tipped the scales in favor of renting. In some markets, “the buying advantage almost disappears” when HOA fees are considered. In DC, though, the difference is much more subtle; when fees are factored in, buying becomes 28 percent cheaper than renting, rather than 32 percent cheaper.

With rent-versus-buy analyses, there are always questions about methodology, so Trulia laid out the path they used to come up with rent-vs-buy determinations in metro areas around the country.

In short, the site compared the average rent and for-sale prices of an identical set of properties in each city, and then considered the present and future monthly costs associated with buying and renting and factored in one-time costs like down payments and security deposits.

Trulia assumed that buyers will have a 3.87 percent rate on a 30-year mortgage, put 20 percent down and will stay in their homes for seven years. They also created an interactive map to see how the numbers work with different assumptions. For example, if someone in the DC-area has a 3.87 percent interest rate on their mortgage, but plans on staying in their home for just five years, buying is just 11 percent cheaper than renting. With plans to move after three years, the advantage of buying over renting drops off completely.

If you don’t agree with the assumptions, Trulia has a rent-versus-buy calculator, so that users can play around with specific numbers.

See other articles related to: trulia, buying versus renting

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/despite_home_prices_heading_up_buying_is_still_cheaper_than_renting/9886

DC Real Estate Guides

Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market

We've collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Visit guides.urbanturf.com or start browsing below!

Northern Virginia

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods across Northern Virginia

Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm
Happily Straddling the Line Between City and Suburb
Columbia Pike
Arlington’s Neglected Stepchild is Getting a Makeover
Crystal City
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Lyon Village
Developing An Air of Exclusivity?
Hitting Its Growth Spurt
An Urban Village Hitting Its Stride
Del Ray
Virginia’s Small Town Near the Big City
Eisenhower Avenue
The Vibrancy Might Take a Few Years
The Quiet Neighborhood By the Beltway
Old Town
Mayberry By The Potomac
132 Commerical-Free Acres
Downtown Falls Church
Staying the Same in the Midst of Change
Tysons Corner
Radical Change Could Be On The Way

See more Northern Virginia »


Profiles of 14 neighborhoods in suburban Maryland

Small-Town Living in the State Capital
Bedroom Community Gets Buzzing Cache
Cabin John
In With The New While Maintaining the Old
Chevy Chase
Affluence, Green Lawns and Pricey Homes
Downtown Silver Spring
Experiencing a Resurgence After a Bumpy History
A Suburb on Steroids
Rockville Town Square
Despite the Dynamism, Still Somewhat Generic
Takoma Park
More Than a Little Bit Quirky
A Foodie Magnet on the Verge of Change
Capitol Heights
Kudzu, Front Porches and Crime
Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Mount Rainier
Artists, Affordable Homes and A Silo Full of Corn
National Harbor
A Development Rises Next to the Potomac
Riverdale Park
A Town Looking For Its Identity

See more Maryland »

Northwest DC

30+ neighborhood profiles for the city's biggest quadrant

16th Street Heights
DC's Sleeper Neighborhood
Where (Almost) Everyone Knows Your Name
AU Park
One of DC’s Last Frontiers Before the Suburbs
DC’s Northern Neighborhood on the Cusp
DC’s 535 House Neighborhood
Cathedral Heights
Do You Know Where That Is?
Chevy Chase DC
Not to Be Confused With the Other Chevy Chase
Cleveland Park
Coming Back After A Rough Year
Columbia Heights
DC’s Most Diverse Neighborhood, But For How Long?
An Island of Serenity East of the Park
Dupont Circle
The Best of DC (For a Price)
Foggy Bottom & West End
Where the Institutional Meets the International
Forest Hills
Ambassadors and Adventurous Architecture
Foxhall Village
350 Homes Just West of Georgetown
Friendship Heights
A Shopping Mecca With a Few Places to Live
History, Hoyas and H&M
Glover Park
One of DC’s Preppier and More Family-Friendly Neighborhoods
A Posh View From Embassy Row
LeDroit Park
A Quiet Enclave in the Middle of the City
Logan Circle
Trendy Now, But Not By Accident
Mount Pleasant
Sought-After Homes Surround Main Street in Transition
Mount Vernon Triangle
From Seedy to Sought-After
The Long, Skinny Neighborhood at the City’s Northwest Edge
Park View
It’s Not Petworth
Penn Quarter/Chinatown
DC’s Go-Go-Go Neighborhood
Getting a Vibrancy of Its Own
The Duke’s Former Stomping Ground
Shepherd Park
DC’s Garden of Diversity
Spring Valley
A Suburb With a DC Zip Code
Not To Be Confused With Takoma Park
Not Quite Like Its Neighbors
U Street Corridor
The Difference a Decade Makes
Woodley Park
Deceptively Residential
Adams Morgan
No Longer DC’s Hippest Neighborhood, But Still Loved by Residents

See more Northwest DC »

Southwest DC

The little quadrant that could

Southwest Waterfront
A Neighborhood Where A Change Is Gonna Come

See more Southwest DC »

Northeast DC

Profiles of 10 neighborhoods in NE

New Development Could Shake Up Pastoral Peace
A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders
Not to Be Confused With Bloomingdale
Fort Totten
Five Years Could Make a Big Difference
H Street
A Place To Party, and To Settle Down
The Northeast Neighborhood That Few Know About
Michigan Park
A Newsletter-On-Your-Doorstep Community
Evolving from a Brand to a Neighborhood
Ripe for Investment Right About Now
The Difference 5 Years Makes
Big Houses, A Dusty Commercial Strip and Potential

See more Northeast DC »

Southeast DC

6 neighborhoods from Capitol Hill to East of the River

Capitol Riverfront
Still Growing
Hill East
Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor
Congress Heights
Gradually Rising
Notable for Its Neighborliness
Historic Anacostia
Future Promise Breeds Cautious Optimism
Eastern Market
A More European Way of Living

See more Southeast DC »

Upcoming Seminars ▾