Shortest break-even period: Detroit
Break-even point: 1.96 years

Struggling Detroit has seen property prices fall so low that Zillow estimates homebuyers need less than two years to break even by purchasing places instead of renting.

That's because median Motown home values (currently $84,700) fell far more during the housing bust than did rents (now at $1,036 a month), according to Gudell.

"You can find a house for $60,000 or $70,000 and I guarantee you that your mortgage payment will be less than $1,036 a month," she says.

At the same time, Zillow estimates Motor City home values rebounded 13.1% over the past year and will add another 4.4% during the coming 12 months -- making it even easier to break even by buying instead of renting.

The site lists some 5,000 Detroit-area properties as up for sale.

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