This paper examines whether it is more expensive to own a house or to rent. The paper assesses houses as ‘overvalued’ if home buyers pay too much, in the sense that they would be better off renting than buying. This involves comparing the financial cost of renting a home with the cost of owning a similar dwelling, where the latter depends on the purchase price, interest rates, repairs, council rates and so on. The paper also briefly examines non-financial costs but find these are small, on average.
This paper finds if real house prices grow at their historical average pace, then owning a home is about as expensive as renting. If prices grow more slowly, as some forecasters predict, the framework used in this paper suggests that the average home buyer would be financially better off renting. House prices are decomposed into contributions from rents, interest rates and expected capital gains, which may help policymakers in the detection of housing bubbles. Recent data do not show signs of a bubble.