Buying in Prince George’s County is better than renting

There are all sorts of valid reasons for choosing to rent rather than buy a home, and vice versa, but if the decision is made solely on the monthly costs, renting is less expensive in virtually all areas of the D.C. metro, with one exception: Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Attom Data Solutions ran the numbers on home affordability, based on the median price of a home, a 3% down payment, monthly mortgage payment, property taxes and homeowners insurance as a percentage of median wages. It then compared that to fair market rent for a three-bedroom apartment as a percentage of median wages.

Buying is better in Prince George’s County. At least for now.

“The gap is definitely getting narrower. But despite that pattern, renting still consumes 45% of the average local wage in Prince George’s County, versus 40% needed for major homeownership costs,” said Jennifer Von Pohlmann, director of content at Attom Data Solutions.

Based on the median selling price of a home in Prince George’s County of $400,000 at today’s 30-year rates with 3% down, the mortgage payment would be about $1,400 a month. Add to that costs for insurance and taxes. The average rent for a three-bedroom apartment in Prince George’s County is $2,439, according to Attom Data Solutions.

Prince George’s County has seen the most significant gains in home values in the D.C. region, up at an annual rate of 13.1% in November, according to Attom Data Solutions. But it also remains the most affordable jurisdiction in the D.C. region.

Despite trends to the opposite in major urban markets, homeownership remains more affordable in 58% of counties in the U.S. But Attom Data Solutions reports median prices are rising faster than rents in 88% of counties it analyzed.

“So this pattern is what we are seeing throughout the country. Ownership continues to beat renting as a more affordable option, assuming someone can afford the down payment, in the majority of the U.S., but the gap is definitely getting smaller,” Von Pohlmann said.

Attom Data Solutions full report and methodology are posted online.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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