For people who want to own a home, the premium to buy-the spread between what they'd spend to rent and what they'd pay for a mortgage-is much lower than the 15-year average in many cities.

To determine what cities are smart buys, Forbes magazine computed the premium and also identified locales where economists predict home prices will go up the most over the next five years.

Here are the top 10 cities the magazine chose as the best places to buy right now.

  1. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Mass.
  2. Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, N.C.-S.C.
  3. Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, Ill.-Ind.-Wis.
  4. Cincinnati-Middletown, Ohio-Ky.-Ind.
  5. Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, Colo
  6. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn.-Wis.
  7. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Pa.-N.J.-Del.-Md.
  8. Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, Ore.-Wash.
  9. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif.
  10. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.V.

Source: Forbes, Francesca Levy (01/21/2010)