Conventional wisdom holds that rising rents drive people to homeownership, but new research from Freddie Mac suggests the conventional wisdom is all wrong.
Freddie Mac commissioned Harris Poll to survey more than 2,000 U.S. adults online in March 2015 to get their perceptions about renting.
"We've found that rising rents do not appear to be playing a significant role in motivating renters to buy a home," said David Brickman, EVP of Freddie Mac Multifamily. "This contradicts what some in the housing market think as they expect more renters ought to be actively looking to purchase a home. We believe rising rents are primarily a sign of increased demand rather than a signal that home purchases will be increasing."
Brickman added, "Growth in the number of renter households is occurring amid an improving job market and economy. The demand for rental housing is increasing and an estimated 440,000 new apartment units are needed each year to keep up with demand."
Rents rose 3.6% in 2014 and are expected to rise 3.4% above inflation this year. More than one-third of U.S. households now rent their homes, and renters account for all net new household growth over the last several years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Monthly house payment on a median-priced home is more affordable than the monthly fair market rent on a three-bedroom property in 76% of the U.S. counties included in the analysis, according to the latest report from RealtyTrac.
“From a purely affordability standpoint, renters who have saved enough to make a 10% down payment are better off buying in the majority of markets across the country,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “But factors other than affordability are keeping many renters from becoming buyers, a reality that means real estate investors buying residential properties as rentals still have the opportunity to make strong returns in many markets across the country.
The analysis included 461 counties nationwide with a population of at least 100,000 and sufficient home price, income and rental data. The combined population in the 461 counties analyzed was 217 million. On average across all 461 counties, fair market rents as set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development represented 28% of the estimated median household income, while monthly house payments on a median-priced home — with a 10% down payment and including property taxes, home insurance and mortgage insurance — represented 24% of the estimated median income.
More than a third (38%) of renters who have lived in their home two years or more experienced a rent increase in the last two years, while 6% experienced a decrease.
Of those who experienced a rent increase, 70% agreed they would like to buy a home but cannot afford to at this point. Half (51%) agreed with the statement that they now have to put off their plans to purchase a home. In addition, 44% indicated they'd like to buy a home and have started looking.
A third of renters are very satisfied with their rental experience and another 30% indicate they are moderately satisfied.
In addition, the top favorable factors for renting remained the same since the previous survey in August, with the strength of these favorable views rising slightly. The top favorable factors about renting are freedom from home maintenance, more flexibility over where you live and protection against declines in home prices.
Moreover, the results show some shared positive views across generations with no significant differences between Millennial, Generation X or Baby Boomer renters in their views that renting provides flexibility over where you live and protection against home price decline.
Despite increases to their rent, 53% say they are making no changes to their spending plans and 46% say they like where they live and will stay in their current place.
If renters are making adjustments due to increases in their rent, 61% indicate they are spending less on essentials or nonessentials, 28% are contemplating getting a roommate or moving into a smaller rental property (28%). Three in ten (31%) renters whose rent increased in the past two years agreed that they like where they live, but can no longer afford the rent.