Well, this is weird. The economy is not happy, people have less money in their pockets, landlord's costs (mortgage interest) is lower, homes are cheaper, and yet rents are...up?! Yup.

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Rents in the third quarter were up 2.6 percent nationally over a year ago, and with occupancy rates climbing sharply, to 93.9 percent. According to MPF Research, there are likely to be more rent hikes by year-end.

Current mortgage underwriting standards have made it tougher to buy a home at the same time that a tough economy is taking its toll on people's savings and their credit ratings. And the foreclosure crisis has emptied many homes while they are prepared for sale. It's a great time to be a landlord.

At the same time the median price of an existing home fell 2.1 percent from July to August. Home seekers in increasingly more markets are finding that it is actually cheaper to buy than rent, in some cases much cheaper. Trulia.com calculated the comparative costs of owning versus renting in the nation's top 50 markets and found that in 18 of them buying beats the snot out of renting.

Here are those attractive buyer's markets, from best to well, still pretty good.

1. Arlington TX

2. Fresno CA

3. Miami FL

4. Mesa AZ

5. Phoenix AZ

6. Jacksonville FL

7. Detroit MI

8. Columbus OH

9. El Paso TX

10. Nashville TN

11. Baltimore MD

12. Tucson AZ

13. Long Beach CA

14. Raleigh NC

15. Houston TX

16. Albuquerque NM

17. Milwaukee WI

18. Indianapolis IN

Trulia calculated the price-to-rent ratio for the 50 largest U.S. cities using the average list price compared with the average rent on two-bedroom apartments, condos, townhomes and co-ops. And that means that buying may be even better than they report -- because what properties actually sell at their list prices (not that a real estate site is going to point that out)? So if the properties actually SELL at 95% of their list prices, buying becomes even more attractive than renting.