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When does homeownership tip the scale?

When does homeownership tip the scale?

How many years of homeownership are necessary before the advantages of owning tip the scale? Zillow weighs in on this buy vs. rent conundrum with its newly released “breakeven horizon” index.

Traditional formulas for figuring the buy vs. rent equation focus on comparing monthly rental and mortgage payments for different properties and therefore leave out other integral factors, according to Zillow. The breakeven horizon computes the length of time a household plans to stay in the home, future prices and rents, tax deductibility, maintenance costs, and transaction costs.

Zillow hopes to offer buyers and renters more comprehensive data than has been available up to now. The site’s interactive map allows users to hover and capture the breakeven number for 224 cities through the nation. Here’s a sample of how several major metro areas scored:

  • San Jose — 8.3 years
  • San Francisco — 5.9 years
  • Seattle — 4 years
  • Washington D.C. — 3.5 years
  • Chicago — 2.8 years
  • Tampa, Fla — 1.6 years

Prospective buyers who are looking for additional ways to compare figures can also refer to interactive rent vs. buy calculators at the New York Times or