Join Club

Ask Eli: Rent vs Buy — data to aid your decision

This regularly scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Arlington resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Eli Residential channelEnjoy!

Question: How have rental prices and purchase prices changed in relation to each other over the last few years?

Answer: This is not going to be a column about whether you should rent or buy, there are plenty of those. Rather, I’m offering a data comparison of how rental and purchase prices and demand metrics in Arlington have changed in relation to each other since 2018.

We all know that both have gotten mind-numbingly expensive over the last few years, but there’s not really a third option (aside from crashing with Mom and Dad) so everybody is faced with the same decision of whether it’s a better decision/value proposition for them to rent or buy — hopefully this column helps with that decision.

Note: the rental data used below is limited to what is in the MLS, which is a limited data set of the Arlington rental market but it is more than enough data to allow us to capture an accurate reading of the rental market.

Buy a Condo, Rent a House?

Since 2018, the average price of a single-family home has gone up by significantly more (+28.3%) than the average cost of renting a house (+20.7%) in Arlington (note: this does not take mortgage rates into consideration) whereas the average cost of renting a condo (+12.9%) has gone up much more than the average cost of buying a condo (+8%) during that time.

Another way of looking at the price relationship between sale prices and rental rates is to look at the multiple of the average cost to buy compared to the average cost of a 12-month rental. Using the table below, we learn that condo prices are the cheapest they’ve been since 2018 relative to the cost of renting, which may very well be due to high mortgage rates pushing more demand towards renting and away from buying condos.

We can see a modest decrease this year in the cost of buying a house relative to renting, after five straight years of that multiple increasing. This is also likely due to mortgage rates shifting more demand than usual towards renting.

The other key takeaway from the table below is just how much more it costs to buy a single-family home relative to renting one in comparison to buying vs renting a condo.

Renting Ain’t Easy

Unfortunately for those fed up with purchase prices, high mortgage rates, and low inventory for purchase, deciding to rent isn’t exactly an easy way out. Not only have rents increased significantly since 2021 — by 10.5% for single-family homes and 15.1% for condos (yes, it’s higher than the increase since 2018 because rents fell in 2020 and 2021) — but the rental market has gotten much more competitive in that time with properties renting more than twice as fast as they did in 2019 and about six times faster than they did in 2018!

The demand metrics below show just how competitive the rental market has gotten over the last two years, because of higher prices and mortgage rates pushing more demand towards rentals. For reference, depending on the season and type of property, about 40-60% of homes for sale go under contract within seven days and usually sell for 99-101% of the original asking price.

How to Use this Data to Decide on Buying vs Renting

The data in the first section suggests that the smart financial decision is to buy a condo and rent a house, right? No, not really. This data isn’t meant to answer your buy vs rent question, rather it can be a helpful input amongst the many other considerations that factor into which decision is right for you/your family.

For example, you may walk away from this column feeling that renting a house is a better financial decision, but the reality of renting a single-family may not actually work for you — it’s harder to find what you want from a rental, you give up a lot of control over the home’s maintenance and condition, you may not be able to live there as long as you’d like, etc.

Condos (and apartments) are a different story though, you have significantly more options from individually owned condos to commercially managed apartment buildings and there a fewer maintenance and condition issues that might negatively affect your day-to-day living and enjoyment of the property.

At the end of the day, the decision to rent or buy should include a wide range of factors and be based on your individual situation, not the opinion of one or two people in the business of making content or who financially benefit from your decision. I do think that a mistake many people make is that once they’ve owned a home, they never consider renting as an option again. I think that for every move you need/want to make, you should give serious consideration to both renting and buying, allowing yourself to revisit assumptions you’ve made, challenge your reasoning, and consider current market conditions.

If you’d like to discuss buying, selling, investing, or renting, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected].

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column or to discuss buying, selling, renting, or investing, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Eli Residential channel.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with RLAH Real Estate, 4040 N Fairfax Dr #10CA

Recent Stories

A large explosion, heard throughout Arlington, has rocked the Bluemont neighborhood after a police standoff.

Good Monday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…

Arlington County will kick off the New Year with the next phase of engagement on its forthcoming plan to manage its deer population. A study found two years ago that…

After 64 years of serving subs and pizza in Arlington, The Broiler has expanded into Maryland, per the company’s social media accounts. The long-time eatery, a local institution that opened…

About Latinas Leading Tomorrow (LLT): Latinas Leading Tomorrow is a dynamic 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering young Latina women through education, mentorship, and leadership development. We are committed to fostering a community of future leaders who will make a significant impact to the community.

Job Description: We are seeking a passionate and dedicated Part-time Executive Director to lead our organization into its next phase of growth and impact. The ideal candidate will be a visionary leader who can oversee day-to-day operations, drive fundraising efforts, and cultivate relationships with stakeholders. This is a 1099 position; Remote position with ability to attend DMV events; 8-10 hours a week; $35-40/per hour.

Key Responsibilities:

Oversee program operations, including educational and community initiatives.
Ensure compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, maintaining trust and accountability.
Develop and execute a strategic vision aligned with our mission and values.
Lead fundraising efforts in partnership with the Board Members.
Cultivate relationships with community partners, schools, educators, and donors.
Demonstrate strong leadership skills, fostering a positive organizational culture.
Communicate effectively with diverse stakeholders and make compelling public presentations.
Promote inclusivity and collaboration throughout the organization.

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

Children’s Weekday Program (CWP) is a non-profit preschool rooted in a play-based philosophy. We focus on developing a love of learning and exploration, cooperation, empathy, and independence.

Our caring and experienced educators create opportunities for children 16 months to 5 years old to play, learn, and grow in a nurturing environment of child-centered and developmentally appropriate experiences.

Initially established more than 50 years ago in South Arlington, CWP continues to be a lauded program in the Northern Virginia area. We are extremely proud to have been recognized as a Best Preschool in Northern Virginia Magazine for the last 4 years.

Located now in North Arlington at 2666 Military Road, CWP offers a part-time parents day out and preschool program with options to extend care both before and after school. We offer a supportive and inclusive school community for children and parents alike and welcome all families to join our school!

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

Holiday Art Show

Holiday Art Show featuring artists: Peter Fitzgerald, Claire Plante, Alanna Rivera, and Suzy Scollon. At the Barcroft Community House, 800 South Buchanan St., Arlington, VA. Dec. 8 from, 2 PM to 8 PM and Dec. 9 from 10 AM to

Live Standup Comedy Starring Casey James Salengo (Jimmy Kimmel Live,…

Standup Comedy Starring Casey James Salengo (Comedy Central, Jimmy Kimmel Live)

Friday, December 29

Headliner: Casey James Salengo

Casey James Salengo is a NYC-based comedian who’s been featured on Comedy Central Presents, Jimmy Kimmel Live, This Week at the Cellar,


Subscribe to our mailing list