If you just talk about homes, for the same amount of money, let us say $1,000. You can get a nice brand new home, but if you want to rent a home for $1,000. You will find out there are limited choices. It is because the property tax in Columbia area are almost 3 times for landlords comparing to owner occupied. I managed a home in wildewood, rented for $2200. This might sound a lot of money, but if you know the property tax is almost $1,000 a month, the owner is actually lossing money every month.
The other thing you really need to consider is how long you will stay in Columbia. I work with a military dentist. She just got the order to relocation and they only stay in Columbia for 2 years. If you know you will move in the next 2 or 3 years, I will not recommend you to buy a home. But if you feel you will stay longer than 4 years, buying a home at this time is a good choice.