Two key measures now suggest it's an excellent time to buy a house, either to live in for the long term or for investment income. First, the nation's ratio of house prices to yearly rents is nearly restored to its prebubble average. Second, when rates are taken into consideration, houses are the most affordable they have been in decades. Whether buying is a better deal than renting isn't a stagnant fact but a changing condition that depends on the relationship between prices and rents, the cost of financing and other factors. But the math is turning in buyers' favor. Stock-oriented folks can think of a house's price/rent ratio as akin to a stock's price/earnings ratio, in that it compares the cost of an asset with the money the asset is capable of generating. For investors, a lower ratio suggests more income for the price. For prospective homeowners, a lower ratio makes owning more attractive than renting, all else equal. Nationwide, the ratio of home prices to yearly rents is 11.3, down from 18.5 at the peak of the bubble, according to Moody's Analytics. The average from 1989 to 2003 was about 10, so valuations aren't quite back to normal. But for most home buyers, rates are a key determinant of their total costs. Rates are so low now that houses in many markets look like bargains, even if price/rent ratios aren't hitting new lows. As a result, house payments are more affordable than they have been in decades.
Source: Smart Money