Baltimore rents up, home prices down
Rents in Baltimore (and many other places) are climbing, while typical home prices -- thanks to foreclosure sales -- are way down.
Here are just two of the implications:
--Affordability problems for renters. Twenty-seven percent of renter householders in the Baltimore region were spending more than half their pre-tax income on housing and utilities in 2009, up from 19 percent in 2000, according to a new report by Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies. And rents have only increased since.
That's a "severe" cost burden, but plenty of others are feeling pinched. Nationwide, just half of renter households were spending less than 30 percent of their income on housing and utilities in 2009, the center said.
"In the last decade, rental housing affordability problems went through the roof," co-author Eric S. Belsky of the joint center said in a statement. "And these affordability problems are marching up the income scale. In real terms, it means more people have less money to spend on household necessities such as food, health care, and savings."
--New grist for the buy vs. rent debate. HotPads.com, a real estate site that shows both rental and for-sale listings, says rents in Baltimore have jumped nearly 5 percent in the last year while asking prices for city homes on the market have slumped nearly 30 percent. That's lowered the "rent ratio" -- its buy vs. rent calculation -- to the point that buying is "more favorable" than renting, the company says. The median home price is 7.8 times higher than a year's worth of rent in Baltimore, down from 10.7 a year ago, HotPads says.
Statewide, the figure is 14.7. For comparison's sake, that's 13th lowest in the country.
Of course, foreclosures in need of fixing up -- substantially, in some cases -- are helping to drag down the median asking price. Another cost consideration for the mix if you're crunching the numbers.
Patrick Killelea, of the housing-bubble-and-bust site Patrick.net, has his own buying rule of thumb:
The only true sign of a bottom is a price low enough so that you could rent out the house and make a profit. Then you'll know it's pretty safe to buy for yourself because then rent could cover the mortgage and ownership expenses if necessary, eliminating most of your risk. The basic buying safety rule is to divide annual rent by the purchase price for the house:
annual rent / purchase price = 3% means do not buy, prices are too high
annual rent / purchase price = 6% means borderline
annual rent / purchase price = 9% means ok to buy, prices are reasonable
That would be an interesting exercise. Homeowners, how much could you rent your home for, and does the annual amount divided by your purchase price work out to 9 percent or more? Renters, would the purchase price on your home -- or a home comparable to your apartment -- meet Killelea's test?
If you're doing the math, remember that the result will be a decimal. Multiply by 100 (that is, move the decimal two places to the right) if you want to see it expressed as a percent.
Maryland, using HotPad's figures on median asking price ($239,990) and median rent ($1,358), works out to 6.8 percent. Borderline, by Killelea's reckoning. I'm sure that calculation varies a lot from community to community.