WASHINGTON – "I feel like we've been losing money for the last five years," Laura Logerfo said wistfully.
After a long spell as renters, Laura and her husband Vincent Pickett, both government workers, have just clinched a deal to buy a house in North Arlington, Va., right outside the nation's capital.
The notion that renting is ultimately more costly than buying had lingered on Laura's mind for some time. "That was what your parents always tell you, and I realize now that (my mother) is actually kind of right," she said.
More Americans may soon reach a similar conclusion. A recent study of residential units in America's most populous 100 metropolitan areas by Trulia, a real estate website, found buying to be less expensive than renting in 98 of the areas -- with Honolulu and San Francisco the exceptions.
"That's a big shift since the height of the housing bubble," said Jed Kolko, chief economist for Trulia. "We've seen (home) prices fall so much, and at the same time rents have been rising in many cities."
The trend found by Trulia is confirmed by an array of other studies and reports. The Wall Street Journal recently found that between January 2011 and January of this year, median rents rose 3 percent, while home values fell 4.6 percent. Another survey of metropolitan areas by real estate website Zillow reported that in 2011 nearly 70 percent of cities saw rental prices increase, while home prices increased in only about 7 percent of cities. And Zillow found a 3 percent rise in rental prices nationwide.
"With the mortgage rates as they are now, it seems like it's the best time to kind of grab them before they go back up," Logerfo told Fox News.
"We spent a lot of time sort of looking at the rates and trying to figure out what was within our budget," Pickett agreed, "and then we dove in."
The aspiration to own a home remains a core tenet of the American Dream. The latest National Housing Survey by Fannie Mae found that most Americans -- across all demographic groups and income levels -- regard home ownership as more sensible than renting.
Indeed, the study found two-thirds of current renters saying they expect to buy a home in the future.
According to figures kept by the U.S. Census Bureau, the national home ownership rate at the end of 2011 was 66 percent -- down about half a percentage point from the same time in 2010, and down three-and-a-half points from the seasonally adjusted peak reached, at the height of the housing boom, in late 2004.
That many people continue to rent is most likely a reflection of the enduring difficulty of securing a mortgage, experts said.
"Credit's harder to get than it was, certainly, during the bubble," economist Kolko told Fox News. "Because we're just coming out of this recession, lots of people are either still unemployed, or they're not secure enough about where they are in their job to be ready to buy. And many people -- especially those who've lost their homes or fall behind on payments -- now can't qualify for a mortgage."
The Fannie Mae survey found that certain groups -- among them those with lower education levels and lower incomes, African-Americans and Hispanics -- were most likely to cite poor credit or the difficulty of navigating the mortgage process as their reasons for not purchasing their own homes.
Fox News’ Paige Kollock contributed to this report.