WASHINGTON, DC — Roughly 37 percent of American households rent, rather than own, their homes. That's the highest share in more than fifty years.
Increasingly, people are renting simply because it fits their lifestyles better -- not because they can't afford to buy. Americans are especially flocking to single-family rentals, rather than apartments or duplexes. In fact, the single-family rental industry is the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. housing market, accounting for more than one in three rentals. The industry has grown 30 percent since 2007, double the rate for multifamily rentals.
Could a single-family rental be right for you? Here are five questions to ask yourself:
1. Would you like a more responsive landlord?
It's often difficult for apartment companies to oversee the hundreds or even thousands of units they manage. So it's easy for an individual tenant to get lost in the crowd.
Landlords who rent out single-family homes are far more responsive. Most own fewer than ten units -- so they're quick to fix broken appliances or resolve other issues. And many of the larger single-family rental companies employ experienced property managers who work in teams -- so someone is on-call 24/7.
These single-family landlords are also leveraging technology to make tenants' lives easier. Renters can submit maintenance requests via smartphones, pay online, and even set up "Smart Home" technology.
2. Would you like to live closer to your grandchildren?
Most grandparents dream of spoiling their grandchildren after school.
Single-family rentals make it easy for Baby Boomers to downsize and move closer to family. Empty-nesters can rent quiet homes in nice neighborhoods, without pouring their retirement savings into a down payment.
3. Are you drowning in student debt?
U.S. student loan debt reached an all-time last year. Americans with student loans owe an average of $35,000 each -- and many middle-class families find themselves paying off these loans well into their 30s and 40s. Renting lets these folks live in suburbia without the financial commitment of home-ownership.
Consider that the median down payment for a home in 2018 was about $15,500 -- while median monthly single-family rent clocks in around $1,600. And single-family rentals cost less per square foot than apartments.
As long as they pay their rent on time, youngsters who rent can build credit for future purchases.
Another perk? Unlike apartments, single-family homes offer 3 or more bedrooms -- which means renters have the flexibility to start a family.
4. Are you dreaming about a new job?
Considering a career change? Thanks to a hot job market, millennials are job-hopping more than other generations. About one in five millennials changed jobs in 2016 alone -- three times as much as non-millennials. And 60 percent say they're open to a switch.
Single-family rentals give these workers the ability to easily relocate for new careers.
5. Do you crave a home that truly feels like "home?"
Many renters find themselves in swanky apartment buildings that more closely resemble hotels than homes.
Single-family rentals offer young families the space and privacy of a home -- perhaps a yard for their dogs and kids -- without the financial commitment of home-ownership. Plus, single-family rentals are more likely to be in good school districts than traditional apartments.
Millions of Americans are choosing to rent, rather than own, single-family homes -- for good reason. Single-family rentals are affordable, spacious, and provide all the advantages of suburban living without the downsides of home-ownership.
(Editor’s note: David Howard is the executive director of the National Rental Home Council.)