Current housing market conditions in California today makes for a strong and compelling case for homeownership. With prices still well below the historic highs of just a few years ago and attractive mortgage rates, qualified buyers have a unique opportunity to own their own home. As seen below, a rigorous analysis of renting versus buying hears this conclusion out. The monthly housing costs (principle, interest, taxes, and insurance or PITI) associated with buying a median-priced home of $301,430 is $1,590 (based on the fourth quarter 2010 median priced home in California). This assumes the buyer is making a 20 percent downpayment and financing with a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 4.62 percent. In comparison, the median rent on a three-bedroom two-bath apartment with renter’s insurance in California is $1,810. That means buying a home would save the homeowner $220 per month when compared to renting and the homeowner would save over $2,600 a year.
In addition, existing tax laws allow homeowners to itemize and deduct the mortgage interest and property taxes from their taxable income. For example, compare the tax implications for two households both earning $63,430 a year, the minimum income required to purchase the statewide median-priced home of $301,430.* The household that purchases the home with a 20 percent downpayment and finances the mortgage at the current rate of 4.62 percent will receive a tax deduction of over $14,000 in the first year of ownership. The renter household will most likely utilize the IRS Standard deduction of $11,400, $2,600 less than their homeowner counterparts. The homebuyer reduces their total tax liability by $400 compared to the renter in the first year of ownership. Accounting for the out-of-pocket savings as well as the tax savings, the homebuyer saves over $3,000 in their first year of ownership.
The mortgage rate is a significant factor in determining just how much a homebuyer can afford. Today’s low mortgage rate environment tips the scale—for some—in favor of buying versus renting. For a home priced at $400,000, with a 20 percent downpayment and a 4 percent mortgage rate, the monthly PITI will be $1,990 for the homebuyer. The monthly PITI jumps to $2,180 at 5 percent and to $2,380 at 6 percent. For each one percentage point increase in the mortgage rate, the payment goes up by almost $200 under these assumptions. Even for a lower priced home at $200,000, the difference in the monthly payment is significant as each percentage point rise in the mortgage rate tacks on $100 to the monthly PITI.
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Of course, there are many other socioeconomic benefits that homeownership brings to communities. And there are other costs associated with homeownership above and beyond the downpayment and monthly PITI. So as long as one has considered all of the costs and benefits of owning a home and is in the financial position to do so, there are some pretty compelling reasons to strive for the “American Dream.”
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