A spectrum of age groups from Gen Zers just entering the workforce to baby boomers edging closer to retirement — even high-income earners who can afford to own a house — are choosing to rent.
Here are the top five reasons:
The new American Dream
For years, many Americans considered homeownership an essential part of the American Dream. But growing student loan debt, an increasingly transient workforce and the elimination of the government’s first-time home buyer tax credit in 2010 have prompted a change in the overall perception of renting.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported student loan debt reached an all-time high of $1.48 trillion as of June 2019, and the amount is only expected to increase in 2020. And, according to the 2019 Millennial Manager Workplace Survey, 40 percent of millennials have had four or more jobs since entering the workforce, and 75 percent say regularly changing jobs helps to advance their careers.
As a result of these factors, among others, renting is now more attractive to a broad range of age groups because of its affordability. It’s also creating a new angle for the American Dream: freedom of choice when it comes to where and how people live.
Convenience and efficiency in an increasingly fast-paced society
Renters today want the convenience of working and playing in the same area — and apartment communities are delivering with strategic picks for amenities and locations. Community clubhouses have fitness centers and game rooms, community rooms for parties, dedicated conference rooms and quiet work stations. As a result, residents can fulfill many of their needs without having to leave their community, saving individuals time and money for travel and championing a more sustainable lifestyle.
Renters are also choosing communities in proximity to their jobs and after-hours pursuits. A dedicated theatergoer may rent a studio in the city’s arts district while an accountant might prefer to live closer to work in the financial district.
Remember when you had to sign a standard 12-month lease to rent an apartment? Not anymore. A growing number of residents want shorter, more flexible lease options. Some have transient jobs and will be in a location for only a few months, while others are renting temporarily while they search for a long-term home. Regardless of the reason, property owners have responded with one-month, three-month and even custom leases based on residents’ budgets and circumstances.
Young professionals who are new to an area and baby boomers who are downsizing are particularly interested in this level of flexibility. Many want a minimalist, simple lifestyle with the ability to move or travel with little notice.
One- to two-year options are still available, but shorter-term leases are in higher demand.
Sure, some apartment communities still have an actual human who can book a golf tee time, accept a package or recommend an Italian restaurant for residents. But many are turning to digital concierge services to help residents with questions and tasks 24 hours a day.
These services, accessible by phone, text, email and mobile app, make it easier for residents to pay their rent, request maintenance and even request on-demand services like laundry, dog walking or house cleaning.
High school and college graduates fresh out of school haven’t had time to build their credit scores. Historically, this has been an argument against renting, but now an increasing number of apartment communities are helping residents build their credit by notifying credit agencies when rent is paid on time. Whether for the Gen Zer looking to buy their first car or a young family transitioning to their first home, this is a benefit for renters of all ages.
The bottom line: Demand for rentals continues to grow, as are the reasons people choose to rent. Whether you’re searching for convenience, flexibility or simplicity, there’s a good chance you’ll find a rental that meets your needs.
Robert Pinnegar is president and CEO of the National Apartment Association based in Arlington, Va.