buying is cheaper than renting. for what i pay in a mortgage there is no way I could rent and get the same kind of space/yard/garage
plus I like the fixed mortgage and equity, rents seems to be shooting skyward
Actually untrue (there's a number of sources that broke down how renters netted better financials over the last decade). Obviously specific cases vary greater depending on location, seller/landlord motivation etc.
Most budget rules of thumb say housing should be around 30% or so of your monthly budget. I've managed to stay housed in a very nice rental at around 15-22% of monthly income for years. Rents are as varied as landlords generally, it just depends on the financial situation of the landlord. Getting a good deal on a rental takes as much work as finding a good deal on a house.
True, you could always do as a friend did and purchase a 14-room Victorian mansion out in a tiny town an hour west of Columbus for 250k. I don't envy his drive into his business in Grandview every day, but I can argue that it wasn't a nice place he got.