Buying bests renting in majority of Metro Atlanta housing markets

by Peter Thomas Ricci

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It makes more financial sense to buy than rent in the vast majority of Metro Atlanta’s housing markets, according to new research from ATTOM Data Solutions.

In its analysis, which incorporated 2017 rent data from HUD, wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and public record sales deed data from 540 counties, ATTOM calculated what share of local wages were needed to buy and rent in Metro Atlanta’s counties. Under that metric, only Fayette, Forsyth and Fulton had more affordable rental markets; in all other Metro Atlanta counties, homeownership was the better bet.

A changing housing market

Buying a home remains more affordable than renting in 66 percent of the U.S. housing markets that ATTOM analyzed, although Daren Blomquist, the firm’s senior vice president, stressed in his comments that the scenario could change.

“While buying continues to be more affordable than renting in the majority of U.S. markets, that equation could change quickly if mortgage rates keep rising in 2017,” Blomquist said. “In that scenario, renters who have not yet made the leap to homeownership will find it even more difficult to make that leap this year. Additionally, renting may end up being the lesser of two housing affordability evils in a growing number of high-priced markets.”

Indeed, it is interesting to look at the fine print of ATTOM’s analysis, which we have collected in the chart below. Although there are counties were buying is clearly the more affordable option – in Douglas, Henry and Paulding Counties, renting is considerably more expensive – the numbers are not far apart in Cobb and Gwinnett.

Furthermore, in six of Metro Atlanta’s 10 most populous counties, it now requires at least 40 percent of wages to rent, a share that does not bode well for prospective homebuyers; after all, if renters are devoting a greater and greater share of their income to cover housing costs, they will not be able to save for a down payment.

County Pct of Wages to Rent Pct of Wages to Buy More Affordable to Buy or Rent?
Cherokee 43.2% 38.5% Buy
Cobb 30.8% 28.5% Buy
Coweta 43.7% 34.1% Buy
Dekalb 31.4% 23.8% Buy
Douglas 47.8% 27.2% Buy
Fayette 41.3% 45.2% Rent
Forsyth 35.2% 41.7% Rent
Fulton 24.8% 27.1% Rent
Gwinnett 33.1% 28.9% Buy
Henry 47.2% 30.8% Buy
Paulding 48.8% 32.1% Buy