10 housing markets where it's better to buy than to rent

By Laurie Kolikowski/TheStreet

Trying to decide whether to buy a home or rent one is a big decision. In two-thirds of country's major metro areas, buying a home makes more sense than renting, even if the homebuyer stays in the home for just two years.

That's because in many markets the time it takes for a buyer to "break even" on her investment vs. renting is less than two years, according to analysis of fourth-quarter data by online real estate listings site Zillow. Zillow's break-even analysis "looks at how long it takes to come out ahead on a home purchase versus renting the same home, [by] recouping the costs [associated with] buying, including taxes and maintenance."

In other words, after buying and living in a home for more years than indicated by the "breakeven horizon," as Zillow calls it, "homeowners begin to have more money and assets than they would have if they had rented the same home over that same time period," the company said.

To be sure, home-price appreciation slowed over the past year, making the length of time it takes to "break even" on a purchase longer in most metro areas, Zillow said.

Still, with mortgage rates still near historic lows, even if they have inched up in recent weeks from earlier in the year, buying a home is now more appealing than ever.

Zillow calculated median estimate home values for the geographic areas by including the value of all single-family residences, condominiums and cooperatives, regardless of whether they sold within a given period. The values are seasonally adjusted. It calculates a median monthly rental price for a given geographic area by including the value of all single-family residences, condominiums, cooperatives and apartments in Zillow's database, regardless of whether they are currently listed for rent.

Here are the top 10 markets where it makes more sense to buy a home than to rent.

Note: Breakeven time frames are based on fourth-quarter data; median home values, monthly rents and home price appreciation estimates are as of May 31, 2015.

10. Pittsburgh

Breakeven time frame: 1.6 years

Median home value: $124,000

Median monthly rent: $1,099

Pittsburgh is fifth best area to own a home, because homeowners will "break even" on their purchase in about 18 months, according to Zillow.

Pittsburgh, with a population of 306,000, according to 2013 U.S. Census data, had a home-ownership rate of 48.8 percent for the five years through 2013, lower than the state of Pennsylvania's rate of 69.8 percent.

Its median household income for the five years through 2013 was $39,195, according to Census data.

Zillow forecasts homes in Pittsburgh to appreciate 1.6 percent over the next year.

9. Tampa

Breakeven time frame: 1.5 years

Median home value: $150,900

Median monthly rent: $1,283

Tampa tied with Atlanta, Las Vegas, Houston and Riverside, Calif., as the third best area to own a home, because homeowners will "break even" on their purchase in 17 months, according to Zillow.

Tampa, with population of 353,000, according to 2013 U.S. Census data, had a home-ownership rate of 50.9 percent for the five years through 2013, lower than the state of Florida's rate of 67.1 percent.

Its median household income for the five years through 2013 was $43,242, according to Census data.

Zillow forecasts homes in Tampa to appreciate 2.5 percent over the next year.

8. Atlanta

Breakeven time frame: 1.5 years

Median home value: $155,900

Median monthly rent: $1,251

Atlanta tied with Tampa, Las Vegas, Houston and Riverside, Calif. as the third best area to own a home, because homeowners will "break even" on their purchase in 17 months, according to Zillow.

Atlanta, with population of 448,000, according to 2013 U.S. Census data, had a home-ownership rate of 45.4 percent for the five years through 2013, lower than the state of Georgia's rate of 65.1 percent.

Its median household income for the five years through 2013 was $46,631, according to Census data.

Zillow forecasts homes in Atlanta to appreciate 3.2 percent over the next year.

7. Las Vegas

Breakeven time frame: 1.5 years

Median home value: $187,700

Median monthly rent: $1,203

Las Vegas tied with Atlanta, Tampa, Houston and Riverside, Calif., as the third best area to own a home, because homeowners will "break even" on their purchase in 17 months, according to Zillow.

Las Vegas, with population of 603,000, according to 2013 U.S. Census data, had a home-ownership rate of 53.6 percent for the five years through 2013, just under the state of Nevada's rate of 56.7 percent.

Its median household income for the five years through 2013 was $51,143, according to Census data.

Zillow forecasts homes in Las Vegas to appreciate 4.9% over the next year.

6. Houston

Breakeven time frame: 1.5 years

Median home value: $158,900

Median monthly rent: $1,502

Houston tied with Las Vegas, Atlanta, Tampa and Riverside, Calif., as the third best area to own a home, because homeowners will "break even" on their purchase in 17 months, according to Zillow.

Houston, with population of 2.2 million, according to 2013 U.S. Census data, had a home-ownership rate of 45.4 percent for the five years through 2013, lower than the state of Texas' rate of 63.3 percent.

Its median household income for the five years through 2013 was $45,010, according to Census data.

Zillow forecasts homes in Houston to appreciate 3.3 percent over the next year.

5. Riverside, California

Breakeven time frame: 1.5 years

Median home value: $286,100

Median monthly rent: $1,677

Riverside, California, located some 60 miles east of Los Angeles, tied with Houston, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Tampa as the third best area to own a home, because homeowners will "break even" on their purchase in 17 months, according to Zillow.

Riverside, with population of 316,000, according to 2013 U.S. Census data, had a home-ownership rate of 56.3 percent for the five years through 2013, above the rate for the state of California at 55.3 percent.

Its median household income for the five years through 2013 was $55,636, according to Census data.

Zillow forecasts homes in Riverside to appreciate 5.2 percent over the next year.

4. Detroit

Breakeven time frame: 1.3 years

Median home value: $115,300

Median monthly rent: $1,123

Detroit tied with Indianapolis as the second best area to own a home, because homeowners will "break even" on their purchase in 15 months, according to Zillow.

Detroit, with population of 689,000, according to 2013 U.S. Census data, had a home-ownership rate of 51.9 percent for the five years through 2013, below the rate for the state of Michigan at 72.1 percent.

Its median household income for the five years through 2013 was $26,325, according to Census data.

Zillow forecasts homes in Detroit to appreciate 3.2 percent over the next year.

3. Indianapolis

Breakeven time frame: 1.3 years

Median home value: $131,100

Median monthly rent: $1,201

Indianapolis tied with Detroit as the second best area to own a home, because homeowners will "break even" on their purchase in 15 months, according to Zillow.

Indianapolis, with population of 843,000, according to 2013 U.S. Census data, had a home-ownership rate of 55.2 percent for the five years through 2013, below the rate for the state of Indiana at 70 percent.

Its median household income for the five years through 2013 was $41,962, according to Census data.

Zillow forecasts homes in Indianapolis to appreciate 3.9 percent over the next year.

2. Memphis

Breakeven time frame: 1.2 years

Median home value: $107,400

Median monthly rent: $1,071

Memphis tied with Dallas-Fort Worth as the two best areas to own a home, because homeowners will "break even" on their purchase in 15 months, according to Zillow.

Memphis, with population of 653,000, according to 2013 U.S. Census data, had a home-ownership rate of 51.1 percent for the five years through 2013, below the rate for the state of Tennessee at 67.8 percent.

Its median household income for the five years through 2013 was $36,912, according to Census data.

Zillow forecasts homes in Memphis to appreciate 4 percent over the next year.

1. Dallas-Fort Worth

Breakeven time frame: 1.2 years

Median home value: $162,200

Median monthly rent: $1,470

Dallas-Fort Worth tied with Memphis as the two best areas to own a home, because homeowners will "break even" on their purchase in 15 months, according to Zillow.

Dallas, with a population of 1.26 million, according to 2013 U.S. Census Data, had a home-ownership rate of 43.6 percent for the five years through 2013, below the rate for the state of Texas at 63.3 percent.

Its median household income for the five years through 2013 was $42,846, according to Census data.

Fort Worth, with population of 793,000, according to 2013 U.S. Census data, had a home-ownership rate of 58.5 percent for the five years through 2013, below the rate for the state of Texas at 63.3 percent.

Its median household income for the five years through 2013 was $51,315, according to Census data.

Zillow forecasts homes in Dallas-Fort Worth to appreciate 7 percent over the next year.