Housing, on a national level, has become much more affordable (see chart below). But housing market is always local. If you are not sure whether it’s a good time to buy vs. rent a house, you are not alone.
(graph courtesy of Northern Trust)
A yardstick to look at is the house-price/rent ratio – generally it’s good time to buy if the rent ratio is well below 20. Here is a list of rent ratios of major U.S. cities as of Q4 of 2009.
(click on the graph to enlarge; source: NYT)
Also , read this article from NYT, “In Sour Home Market, Buying Often Beats Renting“