Renting Is Overtaking the Housing Market—Here’s Why

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Single-family rentals—either detached homes or townhomes—are developing faster than any other portion of the housing market. These rentals outpace both single-family home purchases and apartment-style living, according to the Urban Institute.

“Almost all the housing demand in recent years has been filled by rental units,” says Sara Strochak, a research assistant with the Urban Institute. She also states that single-family rentals have gone up 30% within the last three years.

This change is unique to newer generations. But when did rentals become so popular? And why are people more inclined to rent than to buy? Below, we’ll further discuss the rise in rentals and how it affects the housing market.

When Did the Rise in Single-Family Rentals Start?

The housing bubble collapse and the recession that followed shattered the decades-old tenet of American wisdom that you can’t go wrong buying a home. Most of the housing market fallout from the Great Recession has finally receded—foreclosures and underwater mortgages are back to traditional levels and housing values have recovered in most places. But one thing hasn’t recovered: Americans’ unquestioned desire to own a home.

Today, single-family rental homes and townhomes make up 35% of the country’s 44 million rental units, compared to 31% in 2006.

Who Is Leading This Trend?

Millennials are leading the way to single-family rentals, and myriad factors contribute to this trend. Many young adults aren’t in a hurry to lay down roots, whether they’re prone to traveling or simply aren’t ready to commit to one area or one home. Student loans and stagnant incomes can also make it harder to save up for a down payment. And it’s inevitable that young people who came of age during the housing bubble would be reluctant to take a leap of faith and commit to a 30-year mortgage.

“While the age distribution of the US population suggests most millennials are reaching the age of household formation and demand for single-family homes, much of this demand is likely to be channeled into the rental market,” says Strochak.

Are Only Millennials Affected?

However, it’s not just young people. Americans over 55 have also grown more interested in renting. According to RENTCafé, the number of renters aged over 55 has grown by a whopping 28% between 2009 and 2015. Many of them want to rent homes instead of apartments. From 2010 to 2016, single-family rental households in the US increased by nearly 2 million—1.26 million of those renters were 34 to 65 years old, while just under a half million were 65 or older, according to a RENTCafé Census data analysis provided by Adrian Rosenberg. In places like Miami, Houston, and Minneapolis, more than two-thirds of new single-family renters were over 65.

What Led to This Trend?

When did home renting become so popular? The trend began with large firms buying up cheap homes during the recession and turning them into cash-generating rentals—often rented by families who’d lost their own homes or who could no longer qualify for mortgages. Institutional investors, which are organizations like banks, hedge funds, and mutual funds, gobbled up millions of single-family homes that fell into foreclosure. In Phoenix, for example, the total of single-family homes occupied by homeowners—instead of renters—dropped by 30,000 from 2007 to 2010. Two-thirds of those homes were bought by institutional investors, the Urban Institute says.

But as prices have recovered, that business model no longer works. Instead, small-time landlords now dominate the market, explains Strochak. Investors who have fewer than 10 units own 87% of all single-family rentals, while investors who have only one rental unit own 45%.

How Does This Change the Home-Building Market?

Bbig players continue to push the trend, some deploying a new build-to-rent model. Housing firms are actively building single-family homes intending to rent them rather than sell, says ATTOM Data Solutions, a firm that analyzes housing market data.

“I can buy lots in areas that I can’t sell homes, but I can rent,” real estate agent Adam Whitmire told ATTOM in a recent report. “The local economy may not have enough income or enough credit to buy but there is enough income to rent.”

While big-time rental firms are backing off in some larger cities, the single-family rental investment play is picking up in smaller markets around the country in places like Dayton or Chattanooga, according to ATTOM.

How Does Renting Affect Local Neighborhoods?

The movement to more single-family rentals is a mixed bag, says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM. On the one hand, the professionalization of the single-family rental industry is good for both families and neighborhoods, as there could be more standardized levels of maintenance and management services.

But there will likely be “unintended consequences as the nature of some neighborhoods change,” Blomquist warns. Renters might not be as invested in communities as owners.

“For example, people who want to own a home may no longer be as active in the typical suburban white picket fence neighborhood as properties in those neighborhoods become more prominently rentals,” he says. “That may push those homebuyers back into more urban, walkable environments, or it might push them further out to more rural areas.”

Should You Rent a Home Instead of Buying?

Renting a home instead of buying can be a sensible choice for those looking to break out of apartment life. It can even serve as a good halfway step toward owning, to make sure single-family home life is really for you before you commit to a mortgage.

The main attraction to renting is obvious: buyers don’t need a large down payment to move in. While plenty of mortgage programs give would-be buyers a break on the traditional 20% down mortgage model, skyrocketing prices in urban areas like Seattle or Washington DC mean that even 5% can be a prohibitive down payment requirement. So renting might make sense if you are ready to live in a house.

What Should You Know Before Renting a Single-Family Home?

While all rental transactions are similar, there are a few things you should consider before moving to a home rental. If you’re moving from an apartment, utilities will probably be considerably more expensive—after all, you’ll be heating and cooling an entire home much of the year. There’s also quite a few more maintenance requirements, particularly if there’s a yard. Ensure your lease has clear terms regarding who pays for upkeep of the property. Gardening might seem appetizing if you are sick of your apartment, but it can be a year-round job, so make certain you’re ready for the extra work. If you want to paint the walls or make other changes, know that you will need permission in writing.

Additionally, because you will inevitably have more possessions than in an apartment, it’s more important than ever to get renter’s insurance—your landlord’s policy likely won’t cover damage to or theft of your property. You should also consider liability insurance, in case you’re found responsible for any kind of accident at the property that causes personal or property damage.

If you’re moving to a single-family rental for more space or for monetary reasons, remember to adjust your budget to accommodate the new utility and rental costs. For resources on how to stay financially fit, check out Credit.com’s Personal Finance Learning Center.

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This Is What $1,500 Rent Gets You in America’s Biggest Cities

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When it comes to renting a home, whether it’s an apartment or house, there are many things you likely consider, from how much natural light it gets to if pets are allowed. And you probably think about several aspects of the location, like how safe the area is, how close it is to work and what important amenities are nearby.

You probably also have an idea of how much room you’d like to get in exchange for that monthly rent check. But what if you could pay the same amount and get more space, would you do it? Only caveat: You may have to move to a new city.

Where Your Money Goes Further

RENTCafé, a nationwide apartment search site, decided to figure out how much space you can get for your money throughout the country. To do this, RENTCafé analyzed apartment size data (provided by Yardi Matrix) and rent data across all multifamily rental properties of 50 or more units in the 30 most populated cities in the U.S.

And, based on their established average price per square foot in these 30 cities, RENTCafé issued a report explaining how much space you could get for a monthly rent of $1,500.

10 Cities Offering the Most Square Footage for Your Money

  • Memphis, Tennessee: 1,948 square feet
  • Oklahoma City: 1,786 square feet
  • Indianapolis: 1,724 square feet
  • El Paso, Texas: 1,667 square feet
  • Columbus, Ohio: 1,667 square feet
  • Louisville, Kentucky: 1,648 square feet
  • Jacksonville, Florida: 1,579 square feet
  • Las Vegas: 1,546 square feet
  • Phoenix: 1,415 square feet
  • Fort Worth, Texas: 1,389 square feet

10 Cities Offering the Least Square Footage for Your Money

  • New York: 271 square feet
  • San Francisco: 342 square feet
  • Boston: 399 square feet
  • San Jose, California: 526 square feet
  • Washington: 558 square feet
  • Los Angeles: 570 square feet
  • Seattle: 607 square feet
  • Chicago: 641 square feet
  • San Diego: 698 square feet
  • Philadelphia: 820 square feet

Not surprisingly, New York is reported to give you the least amount of space for your $1,500 per month rent check, with Memphis providing the most space. With those numbers in mind, you’d potentially get more than seven times the space in Memphis than in Manhattan without paying more, according to the report. Put another way, a New York studio you’d rent could likely fit in the living room of the Memphis house you’d get for the same amount of money, the report notes.

But many people are (obviously) willing to give up the yard and space to live in the concrete jungle, so it all comes down to preference.

Budgeting for Your Next Apartment

No matter which city you opt to call home, potential landlords will likely look at a version of your credit report as part of your rental application. Because of this, it’s a good idea to review your credit before applying for a new rental property so you know where your credit stands.

When you pull your credit reports — which you can do for free once each year on AnnualCreditReport.com — it’s a good idea to review them for any errors. If you discover your credit is in trouble because of problems on your reports, there are steps you can take to fix your credit. (As your scores rebound, you can keep an eye on them by viewing two of your credit scores for free, updated each month, on Credit.com.)

To help you build and maintain good credit over time, it’s a good idea to pay all your bills on time (including your rent), keep your debt levels low and limit new credit inquiries.

[Offer: If you’re trying to rent an apartment, and don’t want to go it alone, you can hire firms like Lexington Law to help you manage the credit repair process. Learn more about them here or call them at (844) 346-3296 for a free consultation.]

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Millions of Americans Are Spending Half Their Paychecks on Rent

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With home prices rising and many people under 65 shying away from buying a home, renters are finding themselves spending more on that monthly payment than ever before.

The recently released annual State of the Nation’s Housing Report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University found the number of renters devoting at least half of their individual income to rent hit a shocking all-time high in 2014 — 11.4 million. And 21.3 million people spent 30% or more of their paycheck on covering rent that year, another number at an all-time high. (Experts recommend you spend 30% or less of your monthly income on this expenditure.)

The report crunches numbers from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Indexes and Housing Vacancy surveys.

With the median asking rent for a “newly constructed market-rate multifamily unit built in 2015,” as the report describes it, reaching $1,381 per month, it’s no wonder so many Americans are forgoing a home purchase.

Meanwhile, those who do want to get out of the rental cycle face significant setbacks.

The report notes that down payments remain a challenge, as for many renters, the median value of all financial assets was just $3,000 in 2013, while a 5% downpayment on a median-priced existing home in 2015 cost $11,100. With low-income households becoming more common (defined as those with net wealth of $1,000 or less), the report adds, securing enough for a downpayment is merely a pipe dream.

Additionally, the report says the outstanding student loan service balance jumped from $10,500 in 2001 to $17,000 in 2013.

With these factors in mind, it’s no surprise the report says the national homeownership rate dropped by more than 5 percentage points, from 69% in 2004 to 63.7% in 2015.

Whether you’re looking to purchase a home now or in a few years, it’s a good idea to know your credit scores. Applicants with a good credit score may qualify for better mortgage terms. (You can use this calculator to see how much house you can afford here.) You can view your two free credit scores, updated each month, on Credit.com to see how your credit currently fares.

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6 Times Your Credit Report Is More Important Than You Think

Credit reports play an important role in your life beyond the world of credit cards, mortgages and student loans. As you build a credit history, you’re developing a key component of your future that may affect your job, where you live and even the phone in your pocket.

Loan officers and credit card companies aren’t the only ones who use credit reports when making decisions, but many people don’t realize how influential credit reports are until they’ve been burned by their own.

“Credit reports are becoming important in almost every facet of our lives,” said John C. Heath, a credit expert and attorney with Lexington Law, a Credit.com partner.

Credit reports carry significant weight in the following scenarios, much to many consumers’ surprise.

1. Applying for a Job

A company or hiring manager will generally review your credit report for one of two reasons: reliability or security, said Rod Griffin, Experian’s director of public education. Some employers feel that a credit report can address both of those concerns.

Employer credit checks are a little different than others. First, the employer has to get your written consent to review your credit report (unlike other credit report requests) and an employer will never see your credit score, Griffin said.

Because credit reports contain so much data, they can be used to verify an applicant’s identity, like their name, address and previous employers. The financial insights provided by credit reports can also be valuable to employers filling positions that involve handling money or require security clearance.

“It can show signs of financial stress,” Griffin said of a poor credit report. “It makes you a greater security risk. You’re potentially more subject to bribes … That’s sort of the underlying thought process.”

2. Getting Insurance

In some states, insurance companies review an applicant’s credit history to assess the likelihood that they will file a claim or make timely payments on their premium, Heath said.

3. Setting up Utilities

Internet, heat, water and electricity are all necessities, but the companies that provide them want some assurance they’ll be paid. If you have a poor credit history, a utility company may require you to pay a deposit when you start your service to protect it from loss, Griffin said. You can often get that deposit back after making a certain number of on-time payments.

4. Buying a Phone

The majority of American adults have smartphones, but those devices aren’t cheap. Your payment options for a new device may depend on your credit standing, and as with utilities, starting cellphone service may require a deposit if you don’t meet a certain credit standard, Griffin said.

5. Becoming a Volunteer

Your credit probably isn’t top of mind when signing up for a volunteer gig. But Griffin said credit reports are a common component of background checks, so inaccurate credit report information can cause problems.

6. Looking for Housing

Just because you’re renting a home (as opposed to paying a mortgage) doesn’t mean your credit’s not important. Credit reports are a common part of the tenant-screening process, Griffin said, but it’s one people tend to overlook. As if it’s not challenging enough to try and find an affordable place to live, bad credit can seriously intensify the frustration of it all.

If past mistakes or tough financial times have damaged your credit, there are many things you can do to try and build a good credit history while you wait for negative items to age off your credit report.

Keep in mind, a low credit score can also be the result of inaccurate information, which is why it’s important to monitor your credit reports for errors or signs of identity theft. Even something seemingly insignificant like a misspelled name or wrong address can indicate bigger problems, so it’s helpful to regularly review your credit reports for accuracy. (You can get a free overview of your credit report every month on Credit.com.)

[OfferIf you need help fixing errors on your credit report, Lexington Law could help you meet your goals. Learn more about them here or call them at (844) 346-3296 for a free consultation.]

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Woman Finds Her Own House for Rent on Craigslist

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Imagine looking at ads on Craigslist one day and seeing your family home for rent, only you didn’t post the ad and have no intentions of renting your home.

That’s what happened to Lourdes Guerrero, who owns a home in the greater Los Angeles area, according to a local CBS news affiliate.

A friend reportedly showed Guerrero the ad, and she called the listed phone number. The man on the other end “went silent when she told him she was the homeowner,” according to the CBS2 report.

The news affiliate called the number later and received a “mailbox full” message. Fortunately, the ad did not include Guerrero’s address, according to the report.

“This is where I’m supposed to feel safe with my kids,” Guerrero reportedly told CBS2. “I don’t need random people coming here. That’s scary.”

The situation didn’t end so well for Samantha Sari.

Sari reportedly saw the ad on Craigslist, which listed the home as a rent-to-own for $1,100 per month. When she called about the home she was asked for a $40 application fee and provided her credit card information.

How Rental Scams Work

Both women encouraged renters to do their homework before paying— good advice given rental scams happen all the time. They usually involve bogus advertisements for desirable rentals at affordable, if not bargain, prices. And, as in this case, you’re asked to submit an application for a “background check” or given another reason that requires personal information such as your Social Security number, bank account or credit card accounts — everything an identity thief needs to make fraudulent charges on your dime or open new accounts in your name.

Last year, a Florida family actually moved into a home that was part of a Craigslist rental scam. It turned out the house was a bank-owned foreclosure that sat vacant for a few months, but someone reportedly advertised it for rent, eventually getting more than $2,000 in rent money from a woman and her boyfriend, WESH-TV reports.

Protecting Yourself 

Craigslist did not immediately respond to request for comment on Guerrero’s story or rental scams ads in general. However, it recommends that users refrain from giving out financial information, not rent or purchase site-unseen and refuse background or credit checks until they have met the landlord, among other things, to avoid scams.

To protect yourself in general, if you’re dealing with a manager or agent, it’s a good idea to ask for proof that the person has a right to sign a lease on behalf of the owner, and check the information with the owner. If dealing with a real estate agent, search for the person’s name at the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials or contact the licensing office in the agent’s state.

Finding a home or apartment to rent can sometimes be complicated, especially if you have no credit or a bad credit history. Before you start searching for a new place, get an idea of where you stand — you can get a free credit report summary every 30 days on Credit.com — and consider trying to improve your credit before you look for a new home. If that’s not an option, you may be able to find a broker or apartment-finding agency that can help you find landlords willing to work with bad-credit applicants.

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