Whether to buy or rent a home is an emotional financial decision that should be based on your individual circumstances. Essential factors include how long you plan to stay in an area, whether you are ready to make a long-term commitment to a community and whether you can find the right place to rent or buy.

The financial calculation includes comparing available rentals and for-purchase properties, along with whether you have the means to make a down payment and qualify for a mortgage. Online calculators can be found to help you crunch the numbers, too.

From a big-picture level, ATTOM Data Solutions, an Irvine, Calif.-based firm that assembles and analyzes its database of properties, recently released its 2018 Rental Affordability Report, which shows buying a median-priced residence is more affordable than renting a three-bedroom property in 54 percent of the U.S. counties the company analyzed.

ATTOM studied fair market rent data for 2018 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and public records of sales deeds to make its comparisons.

Home prices have been rising faster than rents in most housing markets, according to Daren Blomquist, senior vice president of communications at ATTOM, so even though buying is more affordable than renting in the majority of U.S. housing markets, that majority is shrinking.

When the analysis is evaluated by population rather than the number of markets, the majority of the U.S. population (64 percent) lives in markets where renting is more affordable. This is particularly true in major population centers: renting is more affordable than buying in 76 percent of counties with a population of 1 million or more.

In the District and other nearby counties in suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia, it’s more affordable to rent than to buy. Prince George’s County is the one exception, where it’s more affordable to buy than to rent.

Other counties where it’s more affordable to rent than buy are: Los Angeles County, Cook County (Chicago), Harris County (Houston), Maricopa County (Phoenix) and San Diego County. In addition, it’s more affordable to rent than buy in Miami, New York City, Seattle, Las Vegas, San Jose, San Francisco and Boston.

But in some counties with a population of 1 million or more, it’s more affordable to buy than to rent. In these nine counties (out of the 39 with populations of 1 million or more), buying is the better deal: Tarrant County (Dallas), Broward County (Miami), Bexar County (San Antonio), Wayne County (Detroit), Philadelphia County, Hillsborough County (Tampa), Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) and St. Louis County.

For the full report, visit: https://www.attomdata.com/news/affordability/2018-rental-affordability-report/.

To pass on a tip or item, contact us at realestate@washpost.com and put “Town Square” in the subject line.