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2024 Rental Affordability Report: Renting Is More Affordable than Owning a Home

By Mihaela Lica Butler | January 18, 2024

ATTOM's 2024 Rental Affordability Report reveals that median rents for three-bedroom properties in the United States are more economical than owning a similarly-sized home in almost 90% of local markets nationwide.

Home rental and ownership remain challenging for average workers across most of the nation in 2024. However, renting is becoming less burdensome in nearly 90% of local markets, and the trend persists despite rents increasing at a faster rate than home prices.

The 2024 Rental Affordability Report highlights that renting and owning a three-bedroom home continue to impose substantial financial strains on average workers, devouring over one-third of their income in most county-level housing markets. However, median rental rates still necessitate a smaller fraction of average earnings compared to significant expenses associated with owning three-bedroom properties in 296, or 88%, of the 338 US counties with sufficient data for analysis.

This disparity perpetuates trends from 2023 despite the expected escalation of rents outpacing home prices over the past year throughout the United States.

The analysis for this report encompassed 2024 rental prices and 2023 home prices, obtained from ATTOM's extensive property database, alongside publicly recorded sales deed data licensed by ATTOM combined with the average wage statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

2024 Rental Affordability Report: changes in rents outpacing home price trends

Rental rate fluctuations have surpassed housing price patterns in nearly two-thirds of the United States. In 210 out of 338 counties analyzed in this report, median rents for three-bedroom homes have ascended more significantly over the past year or experienced lesser declines than median prices for single-family homes. 

The counties included in the report boasted a population of 100,000 or more, a minimum of 100 sales from January through November of 2023, and substantial data showcasing changes in three-bedroom rents from 2023 to 2024.

The alterations in three-bedroom rents have commonly spanned from 3% decreases to 15% increases, while shifts in median sale prices for single-family homes last year typically varied from 3% losses to 7% gains.

Most populous counties have the widest affordability gaps between renting and owning

Renting a three-bedroom home, while challenging for average workers, is most cost-effective in 2024 compared to owning a median-priced single-family home in the nation's largest counties. In nearly three-quarters of markets with populations of at least 1 million, the proportion of average local wages consumed by renting is at least 10% points lower than the proportion required for typical major homeownership expenses. 

Among 45 counties with a population of at least 1 million included in the report, the most significant disparities are in:

  • Honolulu, HI (median three-bedroom rents consume 67% of average local wages while typical single-home affordability consumes 134%); 
  • Kings County (Brooklyn), NY (72% for renting versus 136% for owning); 
  • Alameda County (Oakland), CA (51% for renting versus 108% for owning); 
  • Santa Clara County (San Jose), CA (29% for renting versus 83% for owning);
  • Orange County, CA (outside Los Angeles) (88% for renting versus 136% for owning).

The only two counties with a population of more than 1 million where it is more affordable to buy than rent in 2024 are Riverside County, CA (median rents consume 101% of average local wages while typical home ownership costs consume 91%) and Wayne County (Detroit), MI (22% for renting versus 19% for owning).

Renting three-bedroom homes remains most affordable in the South and Midwest

The report indicates that in 274 out of the 338 counties surveyed (81%), the median three-bedroom rent necessitates more than one-third of the average local wage. Among the 64 markets where the median three-bedroom rents require less than one-third of average local wages, 59 are in the Midwest and South regions.

The most economically viable counties for renting, requiring only a fraction of average local wages, include:

  • Jefferson County (Birmingham), AL (22%), 
  • Wayne County (Detroit), MI (22%), 
  • Ingham County (Lansing), MI (22%), 
  • Genesee County (Flint), MI (23%), 
  • Caddo Parish (Shreveport), LA (23%)
  • Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), OH (24%), 
  • St. Louis County, MO (24%), 
  • Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), PA (26%),
  • Philadelphia County, PA (28%).

The least affordable counties for renting are predominantly scattered across the South and West, including Collier County (Fort Myers), FL (153%), Santa Barbara County, CA (131%), Monterey County, CA (outside San Francisco) (107%), Indian River County (Vero Beach), FL (102%), and Riverside County, CA (101%). 

Except for Riverside County, the least affordable counties for renting, with a population of at least 1 million, are Orange County, CA (outside Los Angeles) (88%), Los Angeles County, CA (83%), Kings County (Brooklyn), NY (72%), and Palm Beach County (West Palm Beach), FL (70%).

Most affordable home ownership markets are still in the South and Midwest

Most of the 338 counties examined in the report (88%) necessitate more than one-third of the average local wages for major expenses on a median-priced single-family home, assuming a 20% down payment.

The most economically viable markets for homeownership are:

  • Wayne County (Detroit), MI (19% of average local wages required for ownership).
  • Montgomery County, AL (21%).
  • St. Louis City/County, MO (23%).
  • Bibb County (Macon), GA (23%).
  • Caddo Parish (Shreveport), LA (23%).
  • Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), PA (27% of average local wages required for ownership).
  • Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), OH (27%).
  • St. Louis County, MO (30%)
  • Harris County (Houston), TX (35%).

According to the 2024 Rental Affordability Report, the least affordable markets for homeownership among those analyzed are:

  • Marin County, CA (outside San Francisco) (164% of average local wages required for ownership).
  • Santa Cruz County, CA (160%).
  • Orange County, CA (outside Los Angeles) (136%).
  • Kings County (Brooklyn), NY (136%).
  • Honolulu County, HI (134%).

Except for Orange, Kings, and Honolulu counties, the least affordable counties among those with a population of at least 1 million are Alameda County (Oakland), CA (108% of average local wages required for ownership) and Queens County, NY (105%).

Rental rates are outpacing wage growth in most markets, with median three-bedroom rents increasing more than average local wages in 197 of the 338 counties analyzed in the report (58%). Notable counties include Los Angeles County, CA; Harris County (Houston), TX; Maricopa County (Phoenix), AZ; San Diego County, CA; and Orange County, CA (outside Los Angeles).

Conversely, average local wages are experiencing faster growth than average rents in 141 of the counties in the report (42%), including Cook County (Chicago), IL; Kings County (Brooklyn), NY; Miami-Dade County, FL; Queens County, NY, and San Bernardino County, CA.

In nearly 60% of the nation, average weekly wages are rising faster than median home prices in 197 of the 338 counties in the report, reversing a pattern seen in 2023 and includes counties such as Los Angeles County, CA; Cook County (Chicago), IL; Harris County (Houston), TX; Maricopa County (Phoenix), AZ, and San Diego County, CA.

On the flip side, median home prices are increasing faster than average weekly wages in 141 of the counties analyzed in the report (42%), encompassing areas like Orange County, CA (outside Los Angeles); Kings County (Brooklyn), NY; Miami-Dade County, FL; Broward County (Fort Lauderdale), FL, and Middlesex County, MA (outside Boston).

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Mihaela Lica Butler is senior partner at Pamil Visions PR. She is a widely cited authority on public relations issues, with an experience of over 25 years in online PR, marketing, and SEO.She covers startups, online marketing, social media, SEO, and other topics of interest for Realty Biz News.
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