Study sheds some light on where the grass might be ‘bluer’

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The grass always is greener — or in Kentucky, bluer — somewhere else.

At least many people think so, often downplaying the advantages of where they live while speaking longingly of somewhere else. The coronavirus pandemic has done nothing to change that.

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Throw in the fact homeownership isn’t for everyone and people start getting itchy feet, thinking about living or working somewhere else.

Roughly 43 million American households have opted to rent rather than buy their homes because of convenience, cost or both, according to a study by the Pews Trust.

But renting isn’t always a cheaper or better alternative to owning a property. The right road to take depends on a variety of factors, including an individual’s or family’s financial means and how well the local real-estate market is doing.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the U.S. this year, rents have experienced “pandemic pricing,” dropping to attract new customers in the difficult market. For most of 2020, average rent prices have been lower than they were last year, though in July they have started to exceed 2019’s rates slightly.

At the same time, mortgage rates have seen record lows while home prices have risen.

Like home prices, however, rental rates can vary significantly by region, state or city. And in some places, renting will prove to be more cost-effective and a better overall value than owning.

To determine where renters can get the most bang for their buck, the personal finance website WalletHub compared more than 180 rental markets based on 24 key measures of rental attractiveness and quality of life.

The data set ranges from the difference between rental rates and mortgage payments to historical price changes, the cost of living and job availability.

Lexington and Louisville rank in the middle of the pack. But compared to some other cities in the region, both fare well.

Lexington ranks 59th on the list while Louisville is 80th. Some big name cities like Nashville — 134 — and St. Louis — 95 — are lower. Knoxville, Tenn., is 148, Cincinnati is 107th, Columbus, Ohio is 114, Huntington, W. Va., is 181 and Charleston, W.Va., is 157.

Indianapolis comes in at 165 and even the smaller Aurora, Ill., is 83.

Drawing a big circle. the better cities, mixing affordability and all the quality of life issues are Pittsburgh, Pa., at 34 and Richmond, Va. at 50.

Best Cities for Renters Worst Cities for Renters
1. Bismarck, ND         173. Tacoma, WA
2. Lewiston, ME         174. Augusta, GA
3. Lincoln, NE          175. Gulfport, MS
4. Rapid City, SD       176. Jackson, MS
5. Sioux Falls, SD      177. Miami, FL
6. Portland, ME         178. Detroit, MI
7. Cedar Rapids, IA     179. Cleveland, OH
8. Fargo, ND            180. Memphis, TN
9. Fremont, CA          181. Huntington, WV
10. Scottsdale, AZ      182. Hialeah, FL

Best vs. Worst

*     Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has the highest rental affordability, with the lowest median annual gross rent divided by median annual household income at 15.24 percent, which is 2.7 times lower than in Hialeah, Florida, with 40.42 percent.

*     Little Rock, Arkansas, has the highest rental vacancy rate, 14.30 percent, which is 11 times higher than in Garden Grove, California, the city with the lowest at 1.30 percent.

*     Newark, New Jersey, has the highest share of renter-occupied housing units, 77.30 percent, which is 3.3 times higher than in Port St. Lucie, Florida, the city with the lowest at 23.20 percent.

*     Brownsville, Texas, has the lowest cost-of-living index, 74, which is 2.7 times lower than in San Francisco, the city with the highest at 197.

*     Irvine, California, has the fewest violent crimes (per 1,000 residents), 0.56, which is 35.9 times fewer than in Detroit, the city with the most at 20.08.