(CNBC) -- American homes have never been more affordable than they are today. Prices are down dramatically, mortgage rates are at record lows and desperate sellers are willing to make concessions.
Still about one third of Americans choose to rent, despite the fact that 85 percent say owning makes more sense financially than renting over the long term, according to a new Fannie Mae study.
Buying is cheaper than renting in most U.S. markets, according to another study from online real estate sale site Zillow. The upfront costs may be higher, but Zillow looked at what it calls the “breakeven horizon,” which is when the cost of owning (including down payment, taxes, fees) meets the cost of renting. While markets will vary neighborhood to neighborhood, the breakeven point in many markets, like Minneapolis, Baltimore, Denver, St. Louis, Chicago and Charlotte, is under three years.
The main barrier to homeownership for many, however, is the mortgage market.
The days of free-wheeling lending are over, and credit worthiness is now king. There are low down payment options, like the FHA, but too many potential buyers don’t meet the credit qualifications either for the great low rates or for the loan itself.
The other half of the equation is attitudes.