Falling home prices and near record-low mortgage interest rates are making it more affordable to own rather than to rent in many areas, Yun says. Yet, homeownership levels are lower than they were more than a decade ago as more homeowners become renters.
From 2006 to 2010, the number of renter households increased by an average of about 692,000 per year, while the number of owner households fell by about 201,000 annually, according to a recent study by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.
Becker says various factors have contributed to this trend, including the obstacles that potential homebuyers face in qualifying for mortgages and the growing number of homeowners who become renters after losing their homes to foreclosure.
Fear of commitment also has kept many potential buyers on the sidelines, but as rents continue to increase in many areas, these buyers will reconsider, Yun says.
Choosing whether to rent or to buy shouldn't be a decision based solely on market conditions.
"It's a personal decision," Yun says. "If you can obtain a mortgage, which is not an easy thing today, and stay within your budget, you should do well if you decide to buy. But it really depends on your individual situation."