To rent or to buy in NYC?

- With the spring home-shopping season practically here, a lot of New Yorkers may be wrestling with the big question: should I rent or should I buy?

According to StreetEasy Data Scientist Alan Lightfeldt, New York is a city of renters, with over 66% of people leasing their apartments.

So when is it time to take the home-buying plunge in New York?

The Tipping Point, a new metric from StreetEasy may help you answer that tough question.

Lightfeldt says that StreetEasy determines the Tipping Point by looking at the typical amount of time it would take, in each neighborhood and borough throughout the city, for it to make sense financially to buy rather than continue renting.

Across New York City, the average tipping point is lower than you might expect, about 5 years, but that can vary dramatically by neighborhood and borough.

Lightfeldt says the tipping point in some parts of Queens, like Alley Park, is just over a year.

In West Harlem in Manhattan, the tipping point is 1.2 years.

On the upper end, in neighborhoods like SoHo, Tribeca, and Carnegie Hill, the cost of home ownership is so much higher that it could take more than 30 years for the median tipping point to take effect.

Buying versus renting is about a lot more than home prices especially in New York City.

Lightfeldt says StreetEasy looked at median sale price, as well as taxes and fees specific to the City, like condo fees, and the mansion tax--which applies to properties in New York City over a million dollars.

And remember, while a neighborhood may be affordable., that doesn't mean buying a home there is a wise investment.

Lightfeldt says you need to consider where home prices are going, because that's a huge factor in what your return on investment is going to be.

For example, in some areas of the Bronx, there are high tipping points because home value appreciation is very low, and in some cases, even negative.

Another thing to consider when homebuying: your down payment.

StreetEasy factored in 25%, which is a typical down payment in NYC.

Would you be better off renting and investing that down payment money elsewhere?

It's just another factor in the big question: rent or buy?

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