Renting becomes a lifestyle for the long haul

The rising cost of home prices may be creating a permanent renter class. - 

When Lindsay Braddy was a teenager, she had big hopes for her 30-year-old self.

“I thought when I like turned 30, I would have a lot of my life together,” she said. “And in many ways, I do. I feel really stable and comfortable in my career and I have a graduate degree.”

But the Chicago librarian is still renting and has two roommates. By now, she imagined owning a house.

“The reality of having student loans and having debt wasn’t really apparent to me at the time,” she noted.

Braddy also got a little spooked by the financial crisis.

“My parents own a home, but they were kind of underwater in their mortgage,” she explained.

The nation’s homeownership rate – that’s the percentage of homes owned by the people who live in them – is at a 50-year low at about 63 percent.

With rising home prices, more Americans like Braddy are choosing to rent and stay put. As a result, apartment owners are reaping the benefits -- just this week, Mid-America Apartment Communities announced it’s buying apartment giant Post Properties Inc. for about $4 billion.

“We’ve had an increase...of almost 9 million renters in the past 10 years,” noted Daniel McCue, Senior Research Associate at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

Some of the reasons Americans are putting off buying homes include stagnant incomes, more people delaying starting families and tough standards for mortgage loans, McCue said. 

“There’s been a tightening up,” he said. “It’s harder – more people have to save for a bigger down payment.”

Meanwhile, with the boom in renters, costs are soaring. Rents are at an eight-year high. 

Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, said declining home ownership “widens inequality.”

“Homeowners build wealth through their houses as home prices rise,” he said.

Yun said the vast majority of renters – more than 80 percent – still plan to own a home one day. Lyndsay Braddy wants to, but she still has those student loans and just bought a 2012 silver Subaru.

She said she won’t be making any other big investments until she unloads some of her debt.

Or...."I win the lottery,” she said

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