Renting is the new black, says a recent study published by Trulia. The report from February highlights the nationwide increase in renting and the subsequent decline of homeownership across multiple age groups in the last decade. Notably, older Millennials are waiting longer than ever to take the leap into homeownership, choosing rents over mortgages, unlike their parents’ generation. And while many American cities have seen impressive increases in renting in recent years (Las Vegas, for instance, is almost 50 percent renters), San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, and Austin are among the top cities whose residents are saying bye-bye to homeownership.
While the shift to renting became a nationwide trend following the financial crisis, cities with the most foreclosures turned many homeowners into renters. And with services like Roomi, which offer a much safer and easier way to find rooms and roommates, renting has never been easier. Las Vegas saw the biggest shift, with a 10 percent increase in renters between 2006 and 2014. However, in the case of many Texas cities, which fared reasonably well post-crisis, the bustling economy has contributed to the population explosion among Millennials, leading to rent inflation. San Antonio tops the list of Texas cities with a 5.3 percent increase in renters since 2006.
This is pretty average compared to the other American metros (whose renter population ranges from 0.2 percent to 9.9 percent), but when compared to historically renter-heavy cities like New York City and San Francisco, which saw a 3.7 percent and 3.3 percent increase, respectively, it puts the trend into perspective. Pair that with the fact that Texas property taxes are among the highest in the country, the decline in homeownership isn’t as surprising.
What Are Texans Saying?
So how much does an average 4.4 percent increase in renters affect the state on the ground level? According to the report, the increase in renters has spiked median rent prices by a steep 29.2 percent in San Antonio. Even worse, Austin’s 3.3 percent rise in renters has partially contributed to its whopping 31.8 percent increase in median rent prices.
Not everyone has felt the impact yet, however. San Antonio realtor John Giacobbe says in light of the city’s population growth, sales have been steady. He notes that while rentals appear to be in high demand, so are homes for sale.
“I think there are a lot of folks who are unable to qualify to purchase a home due to issues with their credit and down payment requirements,” says Giacobbe.
“This is driving the demand for rental properties because it is the only option for many families to secure housing. I think the main issue behind not qualifying is that they’re not saving and over-spending their money. The credit issues have continued the need for rentals, so there is still just as much of a demand in this market for rental properties as there are homes for residents to buy.”
Giacobbe is not wrong about that. Trulia’s report points out that lower-income residents have been affected the most by the loss of “the American dream”, and they are still largely renters.
But fellow Texan realtor and president of the Renters Warehouse in Dallas, Michael Park, argues that, at least in Texas, renting is a positive side effect of the state’s healthy economy.
“Despite all of the new construction going on around town, apartment builders simply can’t keep up with the demand in our area caused by our strong job growth and our increasing population,” Park says. “As such, we’re seeing a rental boom in the DFW area — and many of the renters are Millennials.”
Park explains that renting is an ideal option for residents who are recent graduates or young professionals beginning their careers, offering a low-risk, short-term commitment.
“Millennials saw what the Baby Boomer generation went through during the recession and housing crisis, and they’re leery of getting tied-up with a mortgage. They want the convenience of knowing they can move easily and quickly, if needed. The renting stigma has also changed. In the past, if you rented, it was likely you couldn’t afford to buy. But many of today’s renters, or ‘lifestyle’ renters, can afford to own a home, but they choose not to, giving them the option to pay off debt or travel. In essence, you can’t put a price on convenience nor the appeal of having an apartment or home that’s maintenance-free.
Phil Mackie, 29, a digital analyst sporting a three-year renting record in the state can vouch for Park’s theory. Though he admits his income would support a mortgage and he understands that buying a house is more of an investment, Mackie says “it’s not enough to sway me!”
“I don’t want to be tied down to a piece of property. If I wanted to up and move to Alaska or anywhere for that matter, I simply would as I am now,” he says.
It’s a mindset common to those in his age group, he argues. Homeownership also signals a loss of freedom to a generation whose independence to do whatever they want, whenever they want, is of the utmost importance.
“If a career opportunity sprung up out of nowhere, or we are struck by an adventurous sense of exploring, we want to be able to pursue it. If you ask what my homeowner friends and family members are doing on their weekends off, they will often tell me that they are fixing all the things that have either deteriorated or broken in the last week,” Mackie continues. “I can think of 1,000 things I’d rather do that reinstall cruddy plumbing on my Saturday morning.”
So, what of the rising rent prices? Mackie, at least, remains optimistic for the opportunities renting still offers.
“Me personally, I’m excited about my next move into yet another rental property. I may even consider a roommate…or a dog. That’d be a commitment!” he jokes.