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price-to-rent

The price-to-rent ratio measures the relative affordability of renting and buying in a given housing market. It’s a good factor to consider if you’re deciding whether to rent or buy. It’s especially useful if you’re considering a move, because it allows you to see what prices look like in your new city. As a general rule, a lower price-to-rent ratio indicates that a place is more favorable to homebuyers. A higher ratio indicates a better environment for renters.

How to Calculate Price-to-Rent Ratio

To calculate the price-to-rent ratio, we used the following equation:

median home value ÷ median annual rent = price-to-rent ratio

Our data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau, which provides median home values and median monthly rent. As a simple example of the how the formula works, consider Phoenix, Arizona. Phoenix has a median home value of $231,000 and a median annual rent of $12,156. Its price-to-rent ratio is 19 because $231,000 ÷ $12,156 = 19.

Price-to-Rent Ratio by City

To help you in your renting and buying decisions, we found the price-to-rent ratio in every U.S. city with a population over 250,000. Applying that ratio, we also calculated a projected average home price for a house or apartment that rents for $1,000 in each market. Note that these home values are just projections. Actual home values will vary based on other factors such as proximity to commercial centers, access to transit and home size. Rentals tend to be smaller (and therefore less expensive) than for-sale properties, so these values may overestimate true market prices.

The cities with the highest price-to-rent ratios are San Francisco, Oakland and Honolulu. That means they’re the least friendly to homebuyers (since home values are significantly higher than what you’d pay in rent). At the other end of the spectrum are cities like Detroit, Cleveland, Memphis and Toledo. These markets are very favorable to homebuyers, with ratios below 10.

PRICE-TO-RENT RATIOS BY CITY
City Price-to-Rent
Ratio
Home Price
(for a $1,000 Rental)
San Francisco, California 50.11 $601,362
Oakland, California 41.05 $492,611
Honolulu, Hawaii 39.50 $474,014
Los Angeles, California 38.59 $463,135
New York, New York 36.83 $441,987
Long Beach, California 36.37 $436,385
Seattle, Washington 36.07 $432,862
San Jose, California 33.77 $405,263
Washington, D.C. 33.76 $405,070
Anaheim, California 30.50 $365,970
San Diego, California 30.47 $365,591
Irvine, California 30.29 $363,439
Portland, Oregon 29.30 $351,563
Boston, Massachusetts 29.23 $350,811
Santa Ana, California 27.56 $330,682
Chula Vista, California 25.86 $310,349
Denver, Colorado 25.60 $307,232
Jersey City, New Jersey 23.66 $283,931
Miami, Florida 23.04 $276,481
Sacramento, California 23.04 $276,461
Riverside, California 22.72 $272,633
Atlanta, Georgia 22.60 $271,196
Austin, Texas 22.29 $267,444
Stockton, California 22.19 $266,289
Henderson, Nevada 21.12 $253,420
Minneapolis, Minnesota 21.10 $253,185
Anchorage, Alaska 20.66 $247,870
Fresno, California 20.48 $245,807
Colorado Springs, Colorado 20.23 $242,818
Plano, Texas 20.03 $240,336
Chicago, Illinois 19.99 $239,831
New Orleans, Louisiana 19.73 $236,798
Albuquerque, New Mexico 19.60 $235,245
Chandler, Arizona 19.46 $233,493
Las Vegas, Nevada 19.10 $229,225
Nashville, Tennessee 19.06 $228,730
Phoenix, Arizona 19.00 $228,036
Durham, North Carolina 18.91 $226,923
Aurora, Colorado 18.90 $226,798
Lexington, Kentucky 18.84 $226,112
Mesa, Arizona 18.67 $224,028
St. Paul, Minnesota 18.56 $222,679
Raleigh, North Carolina 18.46 $221,534
Bakersfield, California 18.46 $221,534
Newark, New Jersey 18.42 $221,072
Madison, Wisconsin 18.32 $219,817
Tampa, Florida 18.01 $216,081
Virginia Beach, Virginia 17.81 $213,702
Lincoln, Nebraska 17.45 $209,413
Cincinnati, Ohio 17.11 $205,308
Orlando, Florida 16.83 $201,910
Louisville, Kentucky 16.51 $198,148
Charlotte, North Carolina 16.51 $198,070
Dallas, Texas 16.01 $192,137
Greensboro, North Carolina 15.84 $190,073
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 15.68 $188,109
Tucson, Arizona 15.34 $184,088
St. Petersburg, Florida 15.27 $183,195
St. Louis, Missouri 15.13 $181,515
Jacksonville, Florida 14.93 $179,150
Omaha, Nebraska 14.68 $176,121
Houston, Texas 14.67 $176,065
Tulsa, Oklahoma 14.35 $172,256
Wichita, Kansas 14.32 $171,883
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 14.29 $171,517
Fort Worth, Texas 14.20 $170,423
Arlington, Texas 14.12 $169,495
Laredo, Texas 14.05 $168,603
Kansas City, Missouri 13.86 $166,376
Columbus, Ohio 13.76 $165,104
Fort Wayne, Indiana 13.63 $163,523
San Antonio, Texas 13.34 $160,043
Indianapolis, Indiana 13.18 $158,161
El Paso, Texas 12.79 $153,486
Lubbock, Texas 12.78 $153,333
Baltimore, Maryland 12.43 $149,179
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 12.43 $149,146
Corpus Christi, Texas 12.14 $145,670
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 11.14 $133,622
Buffalo, New York 10.66 $127,862
Toledo, Ohio 9.68 $116,148
Memphis, Tennessee 9.53 $114,368
Cleveland, Ohio 8.31 $99,716
Detroit, Michigan 5.35 $64,194

Price-to-Rent Ratio in New York City

price-to-rent

In New York City, an apartment that rents for $1,000 should cost around $441,987. That, however, represents the entire market—all five boroughs. In Manhattan and Brooklyn, the numbers are even higher. The following table has price-to-rent ratios for each of the five New York boroughs. Considering its high ratio, Manhattan is one of the most expensive places to buy a home in the country.

PRICE-TO-RENT RATIOS IN NYC
Borough Price-to-Rent
Ratio
Home Price
(for a $1,000 Rental)
Manhattan 50.81 $609,681
Brooklyn 42.78 $513,387
Queens 30.32 $363,867
The Bronx 28.49 $341,845
Staten Island 32.48 $389,813

Historical Price-to-Rent Ratio

National and city price-to-rent ratios rise and fall over time depending on the state of the housing market. In the years before the housing crisis, as the housing market heated up, the national ratio rose from 22.73 (in 2005) to 24.50 (in 2007). After the real estate market turned, home prices fell and rentals grew more expensive. That drove down the ratio and it dipped below 20 in 2011.  It currently sits at 17.91.

Before the housing bubble and subsequent crisis around 2008, the national price-to-rent ratio hovered around 15. That indicates that we are still in a time period that is slightly more favorable to renters than buyers.

What Price-to-Rent Ratio Says About Affordability

While the price-to-rent ratio is useful for comparing buying to renting, it does not reflect the overall affordability of buying or renting in a given market. In theory, a place where renting and buying are very expensive could have the same price-to-rent ratio as a place where both renting and buying are very cheap.

Take San Francisco as an example. The city has the highest price-to-rent ratio in the country, indicating that renting should be more affordable than buying. However, rentals in San Francisco are also notoriously expensive. The city’s high price-to-rent ratio only reflects that buying is relatively more expensive than renting within the city. It does not saying anything about the overall affordability of housing compared to other cities.

Before You Buy a Home

  • Trying to decide whether to buy a home or continue renting? Our rent vs. buy calculator can help make the decision easier.
  • If you’re like most people, a home is the most expensive purchase you’ll ever make. That’s why it’s a good idea to consult with a financial advisor before taking the plunge into homeownership. If you don’t already work with an advisor, you can use our advisor matching tool to find one in your area. Just tell us a bit about your financial goals and needs, and we’ll match you with up to three local advisors to choose from.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Vasyl Dolmatov, ©iStock.com/Eloi_Omella

Nick Wallace Nick Wallace studied Economics at the University of Washington. He enjoys getting people thinking about finances by looking at the numbers. Nick is a freelance journalist and data analyst living in Michigan. He still lends his economic and analytic expertise for SmartAsset's studies.
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