The first thing to think about is how long you will be living in Columbia. If you stay 4 to 5 years and the market picks up, you may be able to sell and break even, (not make a profit). If you stay less than 5 years, you may need to bring money to closing when you sell to pay off your mortage.
When it comes to what you can get for the money, there is no doubt you can purchase a nicer home for a monthly payment of $1,500/ mo than you can rent for $1,500 /mo. It is a great time to be a home buyer, as long as you plan to stay where you are for at least 4-5 years!
There are many condominium options down town. If you want to be in a neighborhood, you can go a little further out and have several options: Shandond, Heathwood, Lake Katherine, Forest Acres, and more. It really depends on what your price range is.
I recommend you find a good real estate agent to walk you through the prequalification process and to talk with you to see what is on your wish list so they can find the right neighborhood for you.
Feel free to contact me. I would be glad to assist you!
Real Estate Professional
Russell and Jeffcoat Real Estate, Inc.