From a nation of homeowners to a nation of renters

A large 'rent' banner is posted on the side of an apartment building on June 15, 2012 in San Francisco, California.

The fiscal cliff deal is one economic story that will impact just about every American. But there's another story that may have an even bigger effect on your wallet this year.

As 2013 kicks off, one of the changes to the landscape of consumer finance is taking place in the housing market. Private equity firms, hedge funds and other large investors have jumped into the market and are gobbling up properties. Sound familiar? This time around though, the goal is not to flip real estate, but to rent it.

The rush into housing has driven up prices, driven individual buyers out of the market, and -- as Marketplace personal finance Senior Producer Paddy Hirch puts it -- started to turn us into a nation of renters.

"On the upside, it means you don't have to borrow so much as individual person, it means there's less leverage in the system," says Hirsch, who also notes that renting creates a much more flexible economy as workers are able to travel and relocate for jobs.

But renting has its downsides as well.

"The truism has been that if people own a home, that means their roots are deeper in the community," says Hirsch. "If you have a neighborhood full of renters, they can up and move at any time and so you have much less stability."

Hirsch adds that renters, unlike homeowners, do not get any equity or investment return, "You are paying money, and it disappears."

To hear more about the impact of renting on our economy, click the audio player above.

About the author

Paddy Hirsch is a Contributing Editor at Marketplace and the creator and host of the Marketplace Whiteboard. Follow Paddy on Twitter @paddyhirsch and on Facebook at


I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...

Sustainability Coverage

  • The Kendeda Fund
  • Wealth & Poverty Coverage

  • The Ford Foundation