sale pending sign white house in snowBefore you shell out that big down payment on a new home, see if you're better off renting. Trulia.com, a popular website that covers the housing market, has calculated the affordability of renting vs. buying in America's 50 largest cities. Miami and Las Vegas top the list as ideal places to buy instead of paying a landlord. New York City, with its median unit price of $1.3 million to $1.4 million, occupies the bottom of the index, meaning that it can make more sense to rent."In any market it is still possible to reap benefits from owning a house, but in the more expensive markets it will take longer to come out ahead," said Hanna Edwards, an associate broker for M. Woods & Associates in New York City and writer of the New York City Real Estate Goddess.

Click on Trulia's 2011 Rent vs. Buy Index, an interactive map designed to help you make a smart choice whether to rent or buy your home. Trulia tabulated the ratios for its rankings by weighing the total costs of renting a two-bedroom apartment, condo or townhome against buying a similar dwelling.

Even in our post-recession hangover, conditions favor home ownership for the most part. It is more affordable to buy in 72% of the biggest metropolitan areas, Trulia's study determined.

"Although owning a home is relatively more affordable in most cities, market conditions have caused an interesting demographic swap between traditional renters and buyers," said Tara-Nicholle Nelson, consumer educator for Trulia. "For example, lifelong renters are seizing the opportunity to become homeowners while affordability is high. At the same time, a growing number of longtime homeowners are finding themselves tenants -- some by choice and others by necessity."

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