If you go to MSN Money and pull up the top 10 (ten) markets for purchasing property, St. Louis is one of them. They are undervalued compared to the rest of the nation with lots of opportunities for investment. The key question for renting versus owning is time (how long are you going to be in the property, remembering that time - for building equity - is your friend when it comes to real estate). Also, are we talking something that can later be used as investment property? If it is that might be another reason to buy rather than renting. Price, location and condition would be other factors. If you're buying a smaller, less expensive home in a good area that could be rehabbed while you live there, you can make money with sweat equity. If you're talking high priced new construction and don't plan to be in the area long, you might be better renting. Basically, the only way for your purchase to appreciate in value is to live there awhile (time) rehab (sweat equity) impove the property by adding on (changing the amenities from say 3 bed to 4, adding bath, etc.) or buying a smaller home in a rising neighborhood where it is pulled up by the larger, more expensive homes surrounding your purchase.
Good luck with your decision.
Trisha Lee, REMAX Boone Realty, Columbia, MO