Why Renters May Be Losing Out

Americans are better off buying than renting in the majority of places across the U.S., but the number of renters continues to be at record highs.

Realtor.com® finds that it's cheaper to buy rather than rent in 80 percent of the counties in the U.S. That's because renters continue to face sharp price increases. A record number of renting households are leading to fewer apartment vacancies, which in turn is continuing to push rents upward, notes Jonathan Smoke, realtor.com®'s chief economist, in recent commentary at realtor.com®.

But many renters – with home ownership aspirations – are struggling to break into the housing market. Indeed, 81 percent of renters indicate they would prefer to own a home if they could afford to do so, according to the Federal Reserve's Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking. Fifty percent of renters reported that they lack the funds for a down payment and 31 percent of renters say they could not qualify for a mortgage. Other reasons given for renting included 27 percent of renters saying it was cheaper for their household; 25 percent who thought renting was more convenient; and only 12 percent said they rented because they preferred it over owning.

Read more: Renter, Home Owner Gap Grows

The amount of income renters may have influenced their responses for why they choose to rent. For example, for renters earning less than $40,000 year, their top responses on why they rent were because they were unable to save for a down payment (52%) or qualify for a mortgage (35%). On the other hand, for renters who earn more than $100,000 a year, their top responses for renting were because they believed renting was more convenient (39%) or they preferred renting to owning (17%). Twenty-nine percent in the $100,000 and up earner group said they plan on moving in the near term.

Source: "Federal Reserve Report on Household Economic Well-Being," National Association of Home Builders Eye on Housing Blog (June 10, 2015) and "Midyear Report: The Housing Market Is on Track for Its Best Year Since 2006 (and it Ain’t a Bubble," realtor.com® (June 10, 2015)