Rent or buy?: Condo ownership might make sense in San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland

As home prices fall and rents climb, it could make sense to buy in the Bay Area’s three largest cities, according to a report from San Francisco real estate website Trulia.

The site compared rents and list prices for two-bedroom apartments, condominiums and townhomes in the nation’s 50 largest cities. Trulia calculated a “rent-to-buy” ratio of 12 for San Jose, based on rents for two-bedroom apartments of $1,500 to $2,000 a month and listing prices of $200,000 to $300,000 for two-bedroom condos. According to Trulia, a rent-to-buy ratio of 15 or less means the costs of ownership are less than the expense of renting.

San Francisco and Oakland, meanwhile, are cities where renting is less expensive, but buying might be a better option depending on individual financial circumstances.

San Francisco has a rent-to-buy ratio of 19, based on rents of $3,000 to $3,500 a month and listing prices at $700,000 to $800,000. Oakland has a rent-to-buy ratio of 16, based on $1,000 to $1,500 monthly rents and listing prices at $200,000 to $300,000.

Among other West Coast cities, Trulia says buying is better in Fresno, Long Beach, Sacramento and San Diego; buying might make sense in Portland, Ore., and Seattle; and renting is more affordable in Los Angeles.

The Trulia report — including information on other big cities nationwide — can be found at

Contact Frank Russell at 408-920-5876. Follow him at

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