Break-even point: 3.6 years Gudell says it takes a long time for Seattle homebuyers to break even because the Emerald City's property values "are relatively high compared to rents" -- no easy task in a metro area where median rents run a hefty $1,633 a month. Still, the expert says Seattle's $280,100 median property value makes buying a place an even-costlier option. That's true even though Seattle homeowners are seeing generous price appreciation these days. Zillow estimates local property values rose 10.1% over the past year and should gain another 7.8% by March 2014.
Break-even point: 3.61 years Don't expect Philadelphia's housing market to show you much brotherly love if you buy a place instead of renting and move again within a few years. That's because Philly is seeing paltry home-price gains, which means property buyers need to stay put for a while to break even. Zillow estimates Philly home values only rose 0.3% over the past year to reach a $180,000 median and will only inch up another 0.2% by March 2014. Gudell says that's not enough to make buying a place cheaper in the short term than leasing, even though Philadelphians face a high $1,488 median monthly rent.
Break-even point: 3.7 years Property values in and around Silicon Valley's unofficial capital are already so high that breaking even on a purchase will take years despite the fact homes there are appreciating rapidly. Zillow calculates that San Jose median property prices gained 22.1% over the past year, to $676,100, and will add another 9.7% by March 2014. Still, Gudell says buying a San Jose home already costs so much that leasing makes more sense in the short term. "Home-value appreciation will make up a little bit for the
Break-even point: 4.1 years Boston has a long break-even point for homebuying because of high property prices and low expected future appreciation. Zillow estimates the median Boston residence costs a hefty $321,700 but will appreciate only 0.7% over the next year. "The low appreciation rate makes a big difference in terms of regaining some of the high prices
Break-even point: 5.2 years You'll have to live in one place a lot longer than a New York Minute if you expect buying property in America's largest city to make more sense than renting. Gudell says that's because the Big Apple has high property taxes, hefty median property values ($343,700) and a poor outlook for price appreciation (a 1.2% drop predicted for the next year). "All of that gives you a very long break-even point," she says. But again, New York rentals are no bargain, either. The typical Gotham property listed for rent on Zillow.com costs $2,700 a month. It's also worth noting that while Zillow's 5.2-year break-even estimate applies to the New York metro area as a whole, lots of individual neighborhoods have much longer payback periods. For instance, it'll take an estimated 11.9 years to break even if you buy a place in Manhattan's tony Carnegie Hill section.