Despite very low prices, many Americans can't or don't want to buy houses.
Instead we're paying ever-higher rents and watching as housing prices fall further and further.
In nearly every city in the country, it is now cheaper to buy a home than to rent one, according to new data from the real estate website Trulia.
In 98 of the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., homeownership trumps renting, according to Trulia. The two holdouts? Honolulu and San Francisco.
There is a vicious cycle at work, said Jed Kolko, chief economist of Trulia, in a statement. "Rising rents make it harder for people to save for a down payment, which is the biggest barrier to buying a home that aspiring homeowners face," he said.
Trulia calculated a house price-to-rent ratio by comparing asking sales prices to rental prices for similar units in similar neighborhoods.
Though in recent days, some have expressed optimism that the housing market is making a comeback, real estate is still suffering from the fallout of the housing crash. Many Americans can't sell their homes and buy new ones because they're underwater on their mortgages. More than 20 percent of mortgage-holders now owe more on their loans than their home is worth.
And while mortgage rates are at historic lows, not many can qualify for a loan. Credit ratings took a hit in the recession and lending standards are still much stricter than they were during the bubble when anyone with a pulse got a mortgage.
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Financial distress also is keeping many first-time buyers out of the market. Three in ten young adults between the ages of 25 and 34 have moved back in with their parents in recent years, according to the Pew Research Center. High unemployment and stagnant wages are partly to blame. The average inflation-adjusted hourly wage for male college graduates between ages 23 and 29 has plunged 11 percent over the past decade, and it has fallen 7.6 percent for female college graduates between ages 23 and 29, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The decreased demand for new homes is partly attributable to the declining number of people forming new families. It is hard to have kids when you're struggling to get by. The number of newly married adults fell six percent between 2008 and 2010, and barely half of all Americans -- a record low -- are married, according to the Pew Research Center.