Should You Rent vs. Buy in Illinois?

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Should You Rent vs. Buy in Illinois?

Correction: An earlier version of this story had erroneous data. This is the corrected version of the rankings.

With about 12.8 million residents and over $720 billion in state GDP, Illinois is the largest state in the Midwest and the anchor of the regional economy. Much of the activity is centered in Chicago, but there are major businesses and industries spread throughout the state, ensuring a steady stream of new employees and families moving into the Land of Lincoln.

For new and current residents, the cost of housing is a key consideration in managing living expenses.

Rent or buy in Illinois?

Whether you are moving to a new town or thinking about a transition from renting to owning a home, this decision is a complicated one. Many renters would like to jump into homeownership, but saving for a down payment and finding an affordable place is a process that can take time.

The decision to buy or rent isn’t always clear cut, since in many cities it’s better to rent than buy. Considering how much buyers must save for a down payment, and how much it costs to own a home vs. renting, monthly rent payments may be the best option. In other cities, however, buying a home can generate huge benefits over time — not only from potential appreciation, but also because monthly costs may be lower than renting.

NerdWallet’s analysis

We crunched the numbers for 327 Illinois cities and towns with populations over 5,000 to figure out whether it is better to rent or buy in each place. Here’s what we focused on:

How accessible is homeownership? Using the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, we looked at the median household income and median home value for each community to find how many years of income it takes to save a 20% down payment. A shorter time to save scores positively for buying.

What’s the difference in the cost to rent vs. buy? We calculated a share of income to rent vs. own to look at how much a renting household allocates to rent compared with how much homeowners allocate to ownership costs (mortgage, taxes, insurance, utilities and homeowner association fees). Ratios are from census data, and lower costs of homeownership score positively for buying.

How many years of rent are equivalent to owning a home? Using the census data, we gathered averages for price-to-rent ratios, which is the median home price divided by a year’s worth of rental costs. We equally weighted nominal median rent in each city as well. Economists say you should buy if the ratio is lower than 15, and rent if the ratio is above 20 (if the ratio is between 15 and 20, the decision should be based on individual circumstances). A lower ratio, which indicates that you can buy a home in less time compared with renting, scores positively for buying.

Key takeaways

Rent in Chicago. For many Chicagoans, renting is the right choice. It takes almost an entire year’s worth of median income to match the down payment on a median home, potentially putting homeownership out of reach for many residents.

Suburbs cost more. Buying a home is relatively expensive in some of Chicago’s largest suburbs, including Skokie, Mount Prospect and Oak Park.

Great opportunities downstate. Some of Illinois’ other large cities offer the best opportunities to buy. Decatur and Springfield rank highly when it comes to the affordability of buying over renting.

 

Should you rent vs. buy in Illinois?

City Population Years required to save for a down payment Share of income
to rent vs. buy
(over 1 = better for buyers)
Rent ratio Rent vs. buy index (100 = good for buyers)
Chicago 2,706,101 0.99 1.13 20.48 20.56
Aurora 198,726 0.58 1.27 14.76 50.73
Rockford 152,138 0.54 1.46 11.96 63.33
Joliet 147,459 0.56 1.25 16.41 50.24
Naperville 143,223 0.70 1.13 25.22 29.14
Springfield 116,495 0.47 1.65 13.49 72.80
Peoria 115,466 0.54 1.64 14.33 67.55
Elgin 109,825 0.61 1.25 16.05 47.40
Waukegan 88,560 0.62 1.08 14.00 41.97
Cicero 83,930 0.71 0.93 15.60 29.23
Champaign 81,925 0.73 1.89 14.92 61.46
Bloomington 77,293 0.52 1.31 18.20 52.72
Decatur 75,982 0.41 1.65 10.41 79.07
Arlington Heights 75,492 0.84 1.11 23.57 21.03
Evanston 74,937 1.05 1.35 25.33 24.42
Schaumburg 74,292 0.69 0.95 16.78 30.66
Bolingbrook 73,799 0.54 1.35 17.41 53.92
Palatine 68,738 0.76 1.15 20.85 29.69
Skokie 64,885 0.90 1.09 22.46 18.02
Des Plaines 58,569 0.75 1.06 20.68 26.98
Orland Park 57,194 0.70 1.10 21.46 31.25
Tinley Park 56,810 0.59 1.10 19.65 39.61
Oak Lawn 56,765 0.70 1.29 17.16 42.41
Berwyn 56,626 0.70 1.07 17.25 34.00
Mount Prospect 54,436 0.86 1.05 25.51 16.13
Normal 53,713 0.60 2.04 17.46 67.33
Wheaton 53,245 0.79 1.25 23.27 30.01
Hoffman Estates 52,265 0.63 1.21 20.37 40.49
Oak Park 51,902 0.91 1.10 28.56 13.94
Downers Grove 48,964 0.80 1.18 26.06 23.83
Glenview 44,863 1.03 1.33 24.10 24.79
Elmhurst 44,745 0.77 1.18 23.76 27.69
DeKalb 44,281 0.88 1.78 17.05 50.16
Belleville 43,655 0.44 1.49 11.85 70.19
Lombard 43,492 0.70 1.09 17.14 34.70
Moline 43,279 0.45 1.29 13.78 60.47
Buffalo Grove 41,663 0.64 1.01 20.98 31.49
Urbana 41,520 1.00 1.91 16.07 49.61
Bartlett 41,297 0.58 1.26 18.82 46.70
Quincy 40,769 0.48 1.59 13.84 69.83
Crystal Lake 40,609 0.53 1.18 15.01 50.45
Streamwood 40,434 0.52 1.16 11.08 53.65
Carol Stream 39,970 0.64 1.40 19.89 47.47
Plainfield 39,952 0.54 0.92 17.20 37.84
Romeoville 39,520 0.50 1.13 10.69 54.11
Rock Island 38,968 0.48 1.61 12.74 71.88
Hanover Park 38,159 0.54 1.17 13.80 50.37
Carpentersville 37,953 0.58 1.37 14.34 54.75
Wheeling 37,764 0.66 1.02 15.73 35.83
Park Ridge 37,421 0.92 1.03 28.71 11.01
Calumet City 37,130 0.55 1.05 10.21 48.37
Addison 37,126 0.86 1.16 21.59 23.32
Glendale Heights 34,351 0.59 0.99 15.01 39.24
Pekin 33,858 0.43 1.35 13.15 64.76
Northbrook 33,283 0.91 1.41 23.01 28.86
Elk Grove Village 33,247 0.80 1.16 22.26 26.96
St. Charles 33,227 0.70 1.14 21.47 32.76
Woodridge 33,119 0.68 1.07 20.02 32.25
Danville 32,715 0.38 2.01 8.72 88.27
Galesburg 31,946 0.45 1.55 10.19 73.57
Mundelein 31,343 0.59 1.08 18.26 39.99
Gurnee 31,247 0.62 1.28 19.87 44.35
North Chicago 31,122 0.59 0.82 9.81 38.02
Oswego 31,036 0.49 1.05 11.41 50.78
Chicago Heights 30,340 0.55 1.62 11.62 69.00
Algonquin 30,078 0.49 1.06 13.67 49.50
Niles 29,923 1.17 1.34 22.86 26.09
Highland Park 29,864 0.92 1.17 29.21 16.34
Granite City 29,706 0.39 1.68 10.65 81.71
Burbank 28,993 0.68 0.94 16.03 31.46
Lake in the Hills 28,932 0.49 0.99 13.29 47.15
O’Fallon 28,844 0.53 1.59 16.52 64.67
Lansing 28,378 0.54 1.12 12.28 50.10
Round Lake Beach 28,114 0.48 1.17 11.44 55.94
Oak Forest 28,053 0.57 1.08 17.90 41.84
Alton 27,635 0.46 1.46 9.50 70.41
Glen Ellyn 27,493 0.86 1.25 33.60 22.47
Kankakee 27,412 0.62 1.26 11.79 51.11
West Chicago 27,286 0.71 1.21 21.54 34.50
Wilmette 27,268 0.97 1.03 33.19 11.06
McHenry 26,863 0.57 1.41 15.92 55.70
East St. Louis 26,830 0.63 0.89 8.94 38.79
Batavia 25,943 0.61 1.35 23.05 44.58
Belvidere 25,890 0.47 1.23 14.28 56.33
Collinsville 25,434 0.46 1.55 12.55 70.38
Melrose Park 25,393 0.83 1.11 18.02 26.74
Freeport 25,389 0.44 1.70 11.01 79.03
Vernon Hills 25,325 0.70 1.35 21.19 41.21
Westmont 24,943 0.91 1.11 23.39 16.99
Woodstock 24,926 0.65 1.33 16.49 47.58
Elmwood Park 24,918 0.84 1.07 20.95 22.40
Lockport 24,862 0.56 0.98 20.39 35.95
Huntley 24,799 0.63 1.08 12.59 43.18
Harvey 24,771 0.69 1.35 8.04 53.50
New Lenox 24,536 0.60 0.96 24.35 29.53
Zion 24,400 0.56 1.33 13.87 55.15
Edwardsville 24,320 0.54 1.68 16.70 67.05
Loves Park 24,172 0.47 1.19 12.35 56.80
Maywood 24,143 0.71 1.36 14.78 46.38
Rolling Meadows 23,655 0.79 1.27 17.45 35.96
Blue Island 23,621 0.66 1.28 13.39 47.84
Morton Grove 23,341 0.83 0.92 17.76 19.84
East Peoria 23,252 0.50 1.41 17.55 58.80
Dolton 23,228 0.48 1.60 8.96 74.48
Machesney Park 23,204 0.44 1.30 11.36 63.36
Roselle 22,863 0.66 1.19 20.10 38.38
Lisle 22,557 0.86 1.34 24.98 27.29
Park Forest 22,480 0.37 1.32 7.84 71.51
Darien 22,206 0.82 1.42 23.09 34.74
Bloomingdale 22,168 0.77 0.96 19.60 23.07
South Holland 22,082 0.50 1.64 9.14 74.95
Charleston 22,048 0.71 2.05 12.94 64.83
South Elgin 22,041 0.49 1.35 15.35 58.51
Villa Park 22,023 0.67 1.23 19.28 39.71
Geneva 21,607 0.68 1.37 22.98 41.19
East Moline 21,465 0.52 1.32 14.92 56.45
Grayslake 20,951 0.52 1.11 19.96 43.44
Crest Hill 20,872 0.68 1.13 13.43 40.76
Libertyville 20,360 0.76 1.34 30.12 32.10
Homewood 20,012 0.51 1.36 15.19 58.06
Evergreen Park 19,903 0.60 1.08 18.19 39.17
Lake Zurich 19,771 0.61 1.08 22.80 34.72
Jacksonville 19,375 0.44 1.69 11.99 77.80
Alsip 19,331 0.64 1.08 15.75 39.06
Macomb 19,267 0.71 2.42 11.57 65.53
Ottawa 19,116 0.57 1.23 15.61 49.13
Bellwood 19,110 0.56 1.20 11.92 52.25
Brookfield 18,968 0.66 1.01 20.82 30.48
Matteson 18,965 0.48 1.33 12.07 61.87
Mokena 18,772 0.58 1.15 24.54 37.17
Bourbonnais 18,650 0.55 1.62 15.97 64.91
Montgomery 18,505 0.49 1.22 13.20 55.95
Bensenville 18,453 0.80 1.06 19.87 25.02
Deerfield 18,408 0.73 1.28 24.46 33.76
Franklin Park 18,383 0.70 1.02 19.44 29.79
Round Lake 18,216 0.47 1.17 14.87 53.61
Cary 18,165 0.46 1.40 17.50 60.62
Mattoon 18,116 0.43 1.54 11.13 73.05
Frankfort 17,958 0.63 0.88 19.43 29.08
Godfrey 17,951 0.49 1.41 14.06 62.36
Sycamore 17,566 0.55 1.07 16.04 43.80
Palos Hills 17,544 0.77 1.23 18.80 34.38
Yorkville 17,513 0.56 1.19 18.33 45.52
Marion 17,282 0.50 1.93 13.35 77.04
Fairview Heights 17,105 0.41 1.23 11.25 62.74
Westchester 16,742 0.69 1.20 14.76 41.45
Country Club Hills 16,659 0.50 1.69 8.77 76.96
North Aurora 16,649 0.60 1.44 22.38 49.21
Bridgeview 16,457 0.66 1.29 16.10 45.34
Prospect Heights 16,264 0.90 0.78 24.25 4.51
Morton 16,261 0.50 1.24 17.03 52.50
Lemont 16,171 0.80 1.30 33.47 28.08
Shorewood 15,906 0.52 1.38 12.51 61.09
Bradley 15,855 0.50 1.18 12.30 54.54
La Grange 15,618 0.87 1.02 34.11 13.05
Washington 15,362 0.48 1.36 19.24 56.31
Sterling 15,314 0.43 1.58 11.28 75.15
Mount Vernon 15,060 0.46 1.28 10.62 62.38
Cahokia 15,055 0.36 2.34 5.57 92.30
Dixon 14,964 0.46 1.33 14.37 60.95
Midlothian 14,852 0.51 1.07 14.57 47.87
Norridge 14,726 0.92 0.90 20.74 11.65
Canton 14,646 0.40 1.76 11.17 83.59
Lindenhurst 14,450 0.47 1.37 13.05 62.83
Hickory Hills 14,367 0.84 0.97 21.72 17.26
Chicago Ridge 14,363 0.63 1.01 15.15 37.53
Antioch 14,354 0.51 1.04 21.40 40.31
Lincoln 14,323 0.47 1.59 13.24 71.29
Forest Park 14,202 0.90 1.02 20.31 17.00
Morris 14,019 0.65 1.08 18.11 36.47
Wood Dale 13,823 0.76 1.08 16.29 31.62
Swansea 13,787 0.51 1.52 15.56 63.96
Beach Park 13,716 0.50 1.16 13.28 52.70
Richton Park 13,655 0.62 1.13 14.18 44.02
La Grange Park 13,602 0.94 1.21 27.54 17.94
Riverdale 13,455 0.48 1.51 8.10 72.50
Wauconda 13,425 0.58 1.01 18.30 37.94
Warrenville 13,384 0.57 1.37 13.06 57.01
Glen Carbon 13,067 0.58 2.08 19.08 67.12
Streator 13,021 0.40 1.44 11.49 71.61
Western Springs 13,008 0.76 1.21 22.14 31.11
Rantoul 12,958 0.43 1.18 10.22 60.60
Justice 12,951 0.74 1.06 17.76 30.70
Centralia 12,937 0.38 1.87 8.74 88.10
Kewanee 12,798 0.32 1.35 8.50 75.16
Shiloh 12,735 0.53 1.35 18.97 53.14
Herrin 12,629 0.39 1.47 11.66 72.56
Lincolnwood 12,611 0.77 1.06 18.05 28.10
Palos Heights 12,540 0.75 0.96 13.78 30.14
Northlake 12,338 0.64 1.14 16.81 40.36
Channahon 12,317 0.48 1.15 13.24 54.17
Effingham 12,264 0.53 1.29 17.43 52.22
Chatham 12,185 0.42 1.43 13.49 68.10
Pontiac 12,115 0.43 1.39 13.39 65.71
Schiller Park 11,790 0.97 1.07 19.71 19.00
Taylorville 11,552 0.39 1.78 11.05 85.22
Summit 11,274 0.73 0.77 17.71 20.23
River Forest 11,183 1.00 0.95 44.98 8.30
Crestwood 11,002 0.61 1.07 15.72 40.96
Plano 10,995 0.48 1.13 11.81 54.12
Minooka 10,931 0.50 1.78 13.35 75.95
Roscoe 10,882 0.49 1.15 14.30 52.30
Campton Hills 10,857 0.68 0.89 28.09 19.67
Worth 10,805 0.64 1.16 16.97 40.94
Fox Lake 10,751 0.60 1.19 15.53 45.86
Barrington 10,662 0.87 1.07 30.28 15.06
Lyons 10,653 0.69 0.99 15.86 32.49
Burr Ridge 10,615 1.15 0.83 32.81 3.63
Wood River 10,562 0.37 1.40 9.77 73.19
Sauk Village 10,519 0.41 1.41 6.41 74.06
River Grove 10,249 0.84 1.25 18.72 30.55
Peru 10,188 0.47 1.27 15.51 56.80
Gages Lake 10,093 0.51 1.29 13.41 57.17
Waterloo 10,015 0.53 1.28 18.89 50.81
Troy 10,013 0.48 1.35 19.28 55.58
Columbia 9,786 0.61 1.23 18.79 44.28
Highland 9,754 0.53 1.39 17.25 56.27
Steger 9,583 0.56 1.47 11.54 62.98
LaSalle 9,551 0.40 1.28 13.03 63.97
Rochelle 9,539 0.64 1.13 15.47 41.39
Monmouth 9,514 0.44 1.45 10.09 70.45
Bethalto 9,476 0.46 1.66 12.75 74.80
Manteno 9,438 0.58 0.82 17.42 31.58
Flossmoor 9,317 0.51 1.20 17.24 50.24
Winfield 9,280 0.62 1.35 18.11 48.45
Rock Falls 9,237 0.44 1.54 10.39 73.63
Lynwood 9,149 0.53 0.71 10.13 38.28
Olney 9,134 0.39 1.49 11.39 73.80
Frankfort Square 9,099 0.53 0.88 17.39 36.93
Harrisburg 9,025 0.35 1.47 8.60 77.91
Harvard 9,023 0.63 1.17 10.79 47.92
Sugar Grove 8,985 0.52 1.10 18.31 45.07
Riverside 8,913 0.85 1.12 35.46 18.07
Glenwood 8,904 0.51 1.07 12.30 49.75
Lake Villa 8,873 0.58 1.16 21.96 40.20
Paris 8,768 0.37 2.25 9.03 88.75
Harwood Heights 8,624 1.19 0.66 23.31 3.02
Willowbrook 8,599 0.88 1.05 17.91 21.58
Jerseyville 8,553 0.43 1.38 13.87 65.09
Chester 8,521 0.40 1.58 10.33 77.58
Clarendon Hills 8,498 1.02 1.58 44.75 31.95
Itasca 8,442 0.80 1.38 21.53 35.80
Crete 8,283 0.51 1.65 14.74 69.47
West Frankfort 8,186 0.35 1.51 8.19 79.99
Hillside 8,172 0.68 1.61 16.92 55.91
South Beloit 8,151 0.49 1.32 13.93 59.05
Murphysboro 8,102 0.47 1.59 9.53 74.37
Boulder Hill 8,077 0.50 1.37 11.33 62.76
Island Lake 8,076 0.50 1.17 12.08 54.57
Calumet Park 7,973 0.53 1.33 11.63 58.98
Hillsboro 7,950 0.40 2.30 9.92 85.78
Broadview 7,940 0.62 1.11 16.05 41.59
Princeton 7,885 0.54 1.34 17.57 53.41
Maryville 7,617 0.49 1.34 18.38 56.02
Mascoutah 7,558 0.44 1.22 14.57 57.54
Silvis 7,516 0.56 1.28 15.06 52.40
Sandwich 7,509 0.61 1.27 16.97 47.20
Robinson 7,481 0.37 1.32 10.19 69.89
Marengo 7,475 0.65 1.15 17.06 40.33
Rockton 7,425 0.43 1.24 20.81 53.25
Mahomet 7,412 0.46 2.05 15.08 77.70
Park City 7,391 0.13 1.00 2.65 69.85
Round Lake Park 7,376 0.69 1.18 10.10 44.84
West Dundee 7,331 0.64 0.93 17.94 31.87
Mendota 7,314 0.52 1.66 13.85 70.12
Savoy 7,290 0.69 1.68 19.34 56.00
Salem 7,253 0.38 1.57 9.98 78.71
Inverness 7,245 0.83 0.93 53.05 12.50
Mount Carmel 7,228 0.35 1.59 10.75 80.44
Orland Hills 7,213 0.63 1.30 17.62 46.45
Benton 7,089 0.39 1.35 9.18 70.66
Gilberts 7,063 0.51 1.32 18.60 53.72
North Riverside 7,004 0.95 0.94 22.44 11.67
Clinton 6,993 0.40 1.40 12.73 68.42
University Park 6,987 0.57 1.46 11.66 61.63
Litchfield 6,979 0.41 1.50 9.40 74.63
Greenville 6,881 0.44 1.25 13.55 59.52
Stickney 6,794 0.69 1.06 16.78 34.75
Winthrop Harbor 6,742 0.52 1.04 14.73 45.58
Geneseo 6,717 0.46 1.12 15.49 51.69
Manhattan 6,653 0.53 1.66 16.16 67.72
Lakemoor 6,536 0.48 1.12 13.12 52.55
Metropolis 6,520 0.43 1.55 9.81 75.22
Bartonville 6,471 0.43 1.13 13.99 55.69
Vandalia 6,282 0.37 1.71 12.29 82.84
Beardstown 6,271 0.32 1.42 8.57 78.22
East Alton 6,254 0.42 1.99 8.65 85.70
Chillicothe 6,202 0.45 1.47 15.99 65.35
Hampshire 6,108 0.59 0.90 15.52 35.81
Peoria Heights 6,095 0.42 1.35 11.31 66.82
Du Quoin 6,063 0.40 1.37 10.87 69.11
Braidwood 6,033 0.55 1.31 17.25 52.19
Wilmington 6,028 0.58 1.07 20.13 38.59
Posen 6,017 0.53 1.14 10.57 52.84
Lake Bluff 5,932 0.91 0.94 29.01 8.03
Countryside 5,929 0.77 0.97 20.53 22.86
Mount Zion 5,842 0.44 1.54 17.82 67.20
Poplar Grove 5,829 0.59 0.93 14.38 37.80
Pontoon Beach 5,771 0.34 2.05 9.64 89.91
Genoa 5,734 0.62 0.99 18.55 34.63
Elburn 5,666 0.57 1.64 22.23 58.57
Pana 5,647 0.47 1.52 10.54 70.87
Pinckneyville 5,622 0.38 1.64 12.20 79.42
Carlinville 5,586 0.38 2.28 11.65 85.68
Willow Springs 5,583 0.85 1.26 31.45 23.29
Carterville 5,553 0.44 1.27 14.93 58.83
Hoopeston 5,516 0.35 1.49 10.28 77.46
Creve Coeur 5,498 0.40 1.79 10.43 84.92
Spring Valley 5,486 0.41 1.31 13.81 63.56
Grandwood Park 5,471 0.47 1.46 16.76 63.31
Eureka 5,462 0.51 1.58 21.46 60.36
Watseka 5,424 0.47 1.43 12.11 66.03
Fairfield 5,372 0.45 1.81 11.59 81.40
Highwood 5,366 1.22 0.82 21.50 7.93
Monticello 5,314 0.44 1.46 16.88 64.74
Coal City 5,311 0.57 1.07 13.41 44.87
Carmi 5,309 0.39 1.32 11.37 67.05
Centreville 5,268 0.48 1.02 8.40 53.25
Sumner 5,267 0.24 1.12 7.31 72.19
Shelbyville 5,257 0.38 1.09 10.61 59.99
Berkeley 5,218 0.57 1.04 15.45 42.50
Northfield 5,161 1.20 1.12 30.39 14.59
Robbins 5,151 0.66 2.46 7.46 72.27
Milan 5,140 0.45 1.55 13.22 70.42
Monee 5,114 0.51 0.60 15.76 34.35
Flora 5,077 0.39 0.97 11.56 53.74
Colona 5,003 0.37 1.59 11.75 78.74

Methodology

The score for each place was derived from the following sources:

1. Down payment affordability is 40% of the score. The higher the ratio, the less favorable it is to buy a home.
2. Median rent vs. selected monthly homeowners costs is 40% of the score. The higher the ratio, the more favorable it is to buy.
3. Rent-to-buy ratio is 20% of the score. The higher the ratio, the less favorable to buy.


Chicago, Illinois, homes image via iStock.

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