Despite rising home prices and climbing mortgage rates, it's still cheaper to buy a home than rent one in major cities across the country, according to real estate web site Trulia, which analyzed data in 100 metro areas.
But home prices are just one factor to consider. Deciding whether to buy or rent also depends on the location and how long you plan to stay there. In most of the Rust-Belt cities, like Toledo and Detroit, the math overwhelmingly favors buying. In more expensive coastal markets, like Los Angeles and New York, it's a closer call.
Nationwide, homebuyers who remain in their homes for seven years will save an average of 38% over renting, Trulia found. A year ago, buying was 44% cheaper.
That means all of the initial transaction costs of buying a home -- the broker's commission, title insurance, legal fees and other closing costs -- will be offset by benefits, like tax write-offs and price appreciation. And those costs will become cheaper than the total costs of renting, which include insurance and agent commissions.
% saved buying: 22%
Median home price : $520,000
Median rent: $2,850
While Manhattan's multimillion-dollar penthouses and expensive suburbs may make all the headlines, many single-family homes in the area command much more reasonable prices, said Jonathan Miller, of the New York appraisal firm Miller Samuel.
Rents have been stable over the past year but are much higher than the national median rent of $1,580. For people willing to stay in their homes for seven years or more, that makes buying a more favorable proposition, especially given recent mortgage rates.
Related: Home prices: Your local forecast -- 384 markets tracked
"Even in these metros buying remains cheaper, thanks to mortgage rates that are still very low by historical standards," said Jed Kolko, Trulia's chief economist.
% saved buying: 24%
Median home price : $420,000
Median rent: $2,100
Even though Los Angeles' homes prices have risen some 20% in the past year, it's still cheaper to buy than rent there.
Like New York, a lot of that has to do with low mortgage rates. According to Trulia, rates would have to climb to 7% or more for renting to be a better deal than buying a home.
Of course, a lot depends on what part of the city you live in. Residents of Bel Air, for example, easily pay a couple of million dollars for homes there, while those who live in the San Fernando Valley can pay less than $200,000.
% saved buying: 47%
Median home price : $170,000
Median rent: $1,700
The Windy City is undoubtedly a buyer's a market.
Home prices in Chicago went through a slump during the second half of 2013 that left median home prices at $170,000 in January, about $10,000 below the national median.
Meanwhile, rents are well above national levels, having climbed some 7% over the past 12 months.
For buyers, the savings is significant. According to Trulia, buyers who stay in their home for seven years, will save about 47% compared with the cost of renting a comparable property.
% saved buying: 41%
Median home price : $190,000
Median rent: $1,650
Big Oil and other energy industry players have kept Dallas' economy humming.
With ample land to build on and a steady supply of buyers, prices tend to remain stable here. Even through the worst of the housing crisis, home prices in Dallas fell by just 11% -- a fraction of the losses seen in most other major cities. And Dallas has more than recovered since.
In December, home prices here were higher than ever, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index. Yet, they are still cheap enough to make buying a better deal than renting, especially given the fact that prices are expected to continue to appreciate at a steady pace.
% saved buying: 45%
Median home price : $200,000
Median rent: $1,800
Many of the same market forces that apply to Dallas hold true for Houston, as well. Many of the big employers headquartered in the area, including Phillips 66, ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil and Halliburton, are in the oil production or the energy services business.
The area also has plenty of open land to build on, which has kept home prices very reasonable at a median price of $200,000. Even with Trulia factoring in a conservative price appreciation rate for the metro area of about 2.6% over the next seven years -- about average for large metro areas -- buyers will spend 45% less on housing costs than renters. That makes buying a no-brainer for anyone planning to stay for more than a couple of years.
% saved buying: 46%
Median home price : $175,000
Median rent: $1,600
Home prices and rents are both about 15% higher in the Philadelphia metro area than the typical U.S. housing market. Yet, with mortgage rates still hovering below 4.5% for 30-year fixed loans, buying is a much better deal for most folks.
The city's housing market has been quite stable over the years. Median household income of about $67,000 -- slightly above the national median -- makes homebuying affordable for most working families and helps to keep home prices steady.
% saved buying: 34%
Median home price : $330,000
Median rent: $2,100
With the federal government providing steady employment to many of the D.C.-area's residents, the housing market has recovered quickly from the bust.
Home prices are expected to keep climbing modestly over the next couple of years, at an annual appreciation rate of about 2.6%, according to Trulia. That should be enough for buyers to stay ahead of renters.
% saved buying: 38%
Median home price : $300,000
Median rent: $2,250
Conditions in South Florida favor buying, but buyers should proceed with caution. The Miami metro area's housing market is volatile and while it's likely that buying will work out better than renting over the course of seven years there are factors that could put your investment at risk.
Many of the home sales here are discretionary, meaning properties are bought as vacation homes or investments -- both of which are subject to economic booms and busts. Also, when politics grow heated in many Latin American countries, foreign buyers flock to Miami to park their assets. That can add a boost to the local housing market at times, and hurt it at others.
% saved buying: 52%
Median home price : $130,000
Median rent: $1,350
Home prices in the Atlanta metro area have remained cheap as bargain seekers look to the city's far-flung suburbs for the best deals.
That's helped to keep the median price of homes in the Deep South's biggest city very affordable, at a median of $130,000, according to Trulia.
Rents are reasonable too, about 10% below the national median.
But with the cost of buying a home so low and mortgage rates still such a great deal, the buy-versus-rent calculation works out much more favorably for buyers.
% saved buying: 30%
Median home price : $435,000
Median rent: $2,550
One of the most densely-packed cities in the U.S., Boston's coastal location means that developers have limited space to build on.
As a result, the city has some of the highest housing prices in the nation, a median of more than $400,000, according to Trulia. Rents are also stratospheric at more than $2,500 a month for a three-bedroom home.
Low mortgage rates currently make buying a better bet than renting, but it's a closer call in Boston than in most of the other major cities. The savings advantage to buying in Boston is also shrinking. Last year, buyers were projected to save 40% over renters, thanks to lower mortgage rates and home prices.