I am a Broker Associate in Columbia SC and a Certified Residential Specialist CRS. Over the years things have changed if you like to purchase a home. I advise potential buyers that if they are not going to be in the house for 5-7 years it may be better to rent. It is said that the market will stop to go down and go up especially 2013 and 2014, that is good news and in some places of the country ithe market already has turned around.
In general buying a house is best because it wil be quite a bit less than rent. Trulia has a Rent VS Buying Blog that is very interesting and you can see wherever you live what the difference is on their charts.
Interest and Property Taxes are tax deductible, rent is not. Most buyers today have trouble with the 3.5% down payment for an FHA Loan and then add the Private Mortgage Insurance PMI at 1.15% to that which has gone up. But still, for many buyers the mortgage payment is still less because the interest rates are really low currently and that makes a big difference. I remember the days when we paid 16 to 17% interest for our mortgage and still purchased a home.
I hhope this helps. It depends if you are staying for a while or if you think you may be relocating (especially important is you are military)
If you live in the Columbia SC and Lake Murray area do not hesitate to contact me if I can assist you. Thank you.