The report also ranked the markets with the best – and worst – potential returns on residential rental properties from a real estate investor perspective, along with the most affordable – and least affordable – markets for renting from a renter perspective.
The analysis included 461 U.S. counties with a population of at least 100,000 and sufficient home price, income and rental data.
On average, fair market rents (set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) were 28 percent of estimated median household income; monthly house payments on a median-priced home (10 percent downpayment with property taxes, home insurance and mortgage insurance included) were 24 percent of the estimated median income.
"From a purely affordability standpoint, renters who have saved enough to make a 10 percent downpayment are better off buying in the majority of markets across the country," says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.
However, Blomquist says "factors other than affordability are keeping many renters from becoming buyers – a reality that means real estate investors buying residential properties as rentals still have the opportunity to make strong returns in many markets across the country." He also notes that the data RealtyTrac analyzed are not the only variables in a buy-versus-rent decision.
Only two metro areas and cities in Florida ranked in any of RealtyTrac's top 10 or bottom 10 lists for renting or investing. Miami-Dade (including Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach) ranked No. 4 nationwide in the "least affordable rental markets" list. The analysis finds it takes 45 percent of an owner's median income to rent, while it takes only 34 percent of median income to buy a home.
For real estate investors, only Pasco County made the top 10 list for annual investment return. According to RealtyTrac, the annual gross rental yield for a cash buyer in February 2015 at 19.20 percent compared to the nation's top investment city, Baltimore, Maryland, which saw 24.82 percent returns.
Among the 56 counties with most favorable conditions for buying, the most affordable for buying was Bay County, Michigan in the Bay City metro area, where it takes only 11 percent of the area's median income to make house payments on a median priced-home.
The top U.S. market for renting is Delaware County, Ohio, in the Columbus metro area, where it takes only 14 percent of the area's median income.
While the Miami-Dade area ranked fourth for high market rents, Bronx County, New York, led the list. In the Bronx, a median-income home pays 69 percent monthly in rent. However, the cost of ownership is so high that renting remains the preferred option there.
The average potential annual gross rental yield for homes purchased in February 2015 was 9.34 percent for all metro areas, calculated by annualizing the rental income and dividing that amount into the purchase price of the property.
Markets with the highest potential annual gross rental yields for homes purchased in February 2015 were:
- Baltimore City, Maryland (24.82 percent),
- Clayton County, Georgia (24.26 percent),
- Wayne County, Michigan (21.08 percent)
- Pasco County, Florida (19.20 percent)
- Trumbull County, Ohio (18.36 percent)
- New York County/Manhattan, New York (2.34 percent)
- San Francisco County, California (3.20 percent)
- Kings County/Brooklyn, New York (3.63 percent)
- Marin County, California (3.84 percent)
- Williamson County, Tennessee (3.89 percent)
- Douglas County, Oregon (potential returns up 119 basis points from a year ago)
- Linn County, Iowa (109 basis point increase)
- Henderson County, North Carolina (109 basis point increase)
- Kendall County, Illinois (89 basis point increase)
- Sussex County, Delaware (80 basis point increase).
- Cook County, Illinois (43 basis points increase)
- King County, Washington (12 basis point increase)
- Long Island, New York (49 basis point increase)
- Nassau, New York (24 basis point increase)
- Wake County, North Carolina (30 basis point increase)