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Best county to own a home in the short term? Not Lancaster County, study says

If you’re in the market to buy a home, Lancaster County might not be the first place to start, unless you’re planning to stay in that home for at least five years, according to a new study.

New York City-based personal finance company SmartAsset recently pulled data on average rents and home prices for every county in America to look for the strongest buyer’s market.

Lancaster County came in last for Pennsylvania. Luzerne County was No. 1.

SmartAsset compared the total costs of buying and renting the average home or rental in each county for a household earning $100,000 per year. For the buy scenario, the company assumed a mortgage rate of 4.5 percent, closing costs of $2,000 and a down payment of 20 percent.

For each county, the company found the breakeven point in the buy versus rent decision, or the point at which the total costs of renting become greater than the total costs of buying.

Based solely on that criteria, the counties with the shortest time to break even were deemed the best places to buy a home in the short term.

In Lancaster County, the breakeven point was 4.6 years, according to SmartAsset. The average monthly mortgage payment in the county was $745 and average home price was $269,422, while the average monthly rent was $1,293. 

By comparison, the breakeven in Luzerne County was 1.1 years with an average mortgage of $483 per month, home price of $193,663 and monthly rent averaging $1,108.

The top 10 counties in Pennsylvania were around 2 years or less for breakeven. The average in the commonwealth was 2.5 years.

Rest of the midstate

How did the rest of the midstate stack up, according to SmartAsset? In the middle or near the bottom of the pack.

  • Cumberland County (ranked 37th among Pa. counties): Breakeven year of 2.5 years; average monthly mortgage of $742; average rent of $1,260; and average home price of $267,928.
  • Dauphin County (ranked 46th among Pa. counties): Breakeven year of 2.7 years; average monthly mortgage of $627; average rent of $1,260; and average home price of $236,826.
  • Lebanon County (ranked 65th among Pa. counties): Breakeven year of 3.8 years; average monthly mortgage of $645; average rent of $1,086; and average home price of $231,623.
  • York County (ranked 50th among Pa. counties): Breakeven year of 2.8 years; average monthly mortgage of $663; average rent of $1,252; and average home price of $247,752.

The top 10 counties to buy a home in Pa.: Luzerne, Monroe, Northumberland, Philadelphia, Clearfield, Fayette, Schuylkill, McKean, Armstrong, Crawford.

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