Whether you’re renting or buying, the cost of keeping a roof over your head has been going up in the Tampa Bay area.

Recently, a company called ATTOM Data Solutions crunched the numbers to see how much of your income it would cost to rent versus buy in the bay area. 

Turns out, it depends on where you’re looking. And how long you intend to stay there. 

As an example, we spoke with Tang Pham, a newlywed. He and his wife Liza decided to rent in Tampa, but prices are increasing, rents are rising, and now they’re thinking about buying.

“It was something that what is more convenient for us. We were just getting married,” said Pham.

Like everyone, the couple has a budget. But the deal they got on rent is starting to seem less attractive in the long run.

“Rent is always something that’s going to change. That’s something I’m a little bit worried about,” said Pham. “The past couple of years we’ve noticed that even the apartment that we’re renting in right now went up a couple hundred dollars. So that’s one of the advantages of maybe considering buying so that we can keep it consistent.”

ATTOM data solutions recently looked at the Tampa Bay Area, calculating how much of the average salary a person would have to spend on the average home and -- given today’s rental prices and mortgage rates -- which is the better deal. 

ATTOM found renting is cheaper than owning in Pinellas County, with 42.7 percent of your gross income used towards a mortgage versus 40 percent toward rent. It was a similar story In Hillsborough with 36.5 percent of the average income going to rent and 38.3 percent towards ownership. 

Farther north, it was the opposite. In both Pasco and Hernando counties, it was less expensive to buy a home than to rent.

But in each case, it provides only a snapshot. And there are more factors that could influence a person’s decision to rent or buy. 

“I think the timeframe is key in doing that analysis,” said Tampa Bay Area Realtor Cristan Fadal with Century 21 Realty. 

Fadal says it’s important to look beyond just income and price. People also need to calculate tax breaks from owning, maintenance costs saved by renting, and the possibility of property appreciation or loss.

Ownership can be more stable since owners know their expenses are fairly fixed, while rents can rise steadily depending upon demand.  

“Obviously, your mortgage rate is locked in, your taxes - save out homes is going to be locked in. Your insurance is fairly consistent unless you change your content for the most part,” said Fadal.

As a rule of thumb, experts say in the long term, it’s smarter to buy. But if you’re only staying put for one to three years, consider renting. There’s greater flexibility. Most maintenance costs are covered by the property owner. And there are no taxes or real estate agent commissions which are usually associated with selling a home.

“I don’t have to fix anything. I don’t have to come out of pocket a lot,” said Zaid, looking at a new apartment in Tampa’s Channelside District. “Usually the building handles everything.”

The ATTOM study found in other major metropolitan areas the choice – the dream - of homeownership is quickly becoming just that. A dream. 

It’s still possible in Tampa Bay to pay close to the same amount, but with rising interest rates and rising property values, some may have little choice but to rent.

“It’s already happening,” said Pham. “It’s already getting more expensive. Tampa is getting a lot busier.”

Fadal agrees.

“There’s no doubt,” he said. “But with the growth that we are seeing and the influx of people I think our market, it is still the best time to buy.”

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