In some cities, home prices and rents are coming back into sync, according to the WSJ

When I moved to Savannah in 1995, I paid $625/month in rent for a large parlor level apartment on East Gwinnett Street just off the park. It was a newly rehabbed space, and there were plenty of much cheaper places around.

When I bought my house in Thomas Square at the end of 1996, my monthly payment with a 30 year mortgage and an interest rate over 7.5% was about $640/month, including PMI, taxes, insurance, and everything else.

That’s the way things should be, right?

But as housing prices boomed and rents increased much more modestly, the price to rent ratio got out of whack. That has been one of the key measures leading me and jillions of other housing commentators to argue that home prices would continue to fall.

Slowly and surely, if unevenly across geographies, we’re seeing a combination of rising rents and falling home prices bring us closer to historical norms.

From the WSJ’s Stronger Lure for Prospective Home Buyers:

The Wall Street Journal’s third-quarter survey of housing-market conditions in 28 of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas found that home values declined in all but five markets compared with the second quarter, according to data from Zillow Inc. Meanwhile, rent levels have risen briskly across the country and mortgage rates, hovering around 4%, are the lowest in six decades.

As a result, monthly mortgage payments on the median priced home—including taxes and insurance—are lower than the average rent levels in 12 metro areas, according to data compiled for The Wall Street Journal by Marcus & Millichap, a real-estate brokerage that tracked 27 metro areas. It remains less expensive to rent than to buy in 15 cities.

Despite the fact that “affordability hasn’t done much to lift the sagging housing sector because many would-be buyers are unwilling to purchase a home or unable to qualify for a mortgage,” a more balanced ratio between prices and rents will lure some buyers off the sidelines and will bring more cash-rich investors into the market as formerly owner-occupied units are increasingly converted to rentals.

Here’s a pic of a chart that accompanies the WSJ piece, although you’ll need to go here to see all the data that comes with it.