(Photo by Robert Whetzel/srgrealtytours) 7588 Great Swan Ct., Alexandria

In this market, it’s not always easy to tell whether it makes more sense to rent or buy. With the help of Zillow, a real estate information Web site, we decided to compare a property that is listed both to rent and to buy and see which is the better deal. In the case of this Alexandria townhouse, the difference between owning and renting appears slight.

(Photo by Robert Whetzel/srgrealtytours) living room

The three-bedroom, four-bathroom home is listed for sale at $420,000, or you can rent it for $2,250 a month. Built in 2003, the 1,416-square-foot townhome is in the Grove at Huntley Meadows community, south of the Huntington Metro and near Old Town Alexandria. The home has hardwood floors on the main level and carpeting on the upper level. The kitchen has granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. The master suite has a walk-in closet and a master bathroom with a double vanity, soaking tub and separate shower. The spacious deck overlooks a grove of trees. The listing agent is Gary Eales of Long and Foster.

(Photo by Robert Whetzel/srgrealtytours) kitchen

The Zillow data assumes that a buyer would have a credit score between 700 and 719, make a 20 percent down payment of $84,000 and take out a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at Monday’s rate of 4.28 percent. Taxes, home owners association fees and home owners insurance (an estimate based on insurance premium data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners) are included in the calculation, but not the tax benefits of buying (e.g., mortgage interest deductions).

(Photo by Robert Whetzel/srgrealtytours) deck

This rudimentary calculation is meant to give potential buyers or renters a snapshot of the costs involved with buying or renting a home. It is not meant to be a comprehensive accounting. Anyone considering a home purchase should also take into account the tax benefits available as well as other factors such as how long they intend to live in the home.

Address: 7588 Great Swann Ct., Alexandria

Sale price: $420,000

Monthly principal and interest: $1,659

Monthly taxes: $340

Monthly home owners insurance: $62

Monthly home owners association fee: $109

Estimated total monthly costs when buying: $2,170

Monthly rent: $2,250