In a Rent.com survey, 41 percent of property owners and managers noted seeing an increase in millennial renters over the past year. This observation from landlords seems to support what many market analysts have been reporting: Millennials are foregoing homeownership for renting. In fact, homeownership of Americans ages 25 to 34 has declined nearly 8 percent since 2006.
But what is motivating the younger generation rent instead of buy? Here are five possible explanations.
1. Purchasing a home means acquiring more debt. The most obvious reason millennials are opting to rent is the crippling debt many find themselves with in their early 20s. According to the Institute for College Access & Success, 7 in 10 college students who graduated in 2012 have student loan debt. The average amount: a staggering $29,400 – and many others graduate even deeper in the hole. The amount of student loan debt has increased an average of 6 percent per year since 2008, and there is no sign of the trend stopping.
With student debt looming, it’s no wonder millennials favor a monthly rental check over additional mortgage debt. While mortgage payments can be more affordable than rent in some cities, recent graduates likely don't have the funds necessary to make a down payment. Beyond having money for a down payment on a home, some millennials simply don’t qualify for a mortgage. Whether they are saving up for a down payment or choose to rent as a long-term housing decision, renting allows millennials to move out quickly without the immediate financial squeeze that comes with homeownership.
2. Apartment life is more affordable than owning a home. In addition to the upfront cost of a down payment and a mortgage, managing a house comes with a lot of additional costs: Homeowners must pay property tax, maintenance and repairs, utilities and perhaps even association fees on top of their mortgage. An apartment requires rent and utilities, which is much more manageable for a millennial on a tight budget.
3. To take advantage of apartment amenities. Many apartment complexes offer amenities such as fitness centers, pools, a concierge and on-site maintenance – perks that don’t usually come with your first home purchase. Though renting an apartment in a building that has luxury amenities can come with a bigger price tag, the features cut down on other bills. Instead of paying for a gym membership and rent, renters in these buildings can pay one price and get both. In fact, the idea of having access to amenities is so appealing to some young people that they plan to rent for a while.
4. To enjoy city life. Many young people choose to live in urban areas because they like the atmosphere. They can walk to grocery stores, take public transportation, find night spots easily, see live concerts and access great restaurants. Millennials drawn to the energy of metropolitan areas likely can't afford to own a home there. If city living is a priority, they'll sacrifice homeownership to get the location, and that means renting.
5. To maintain flexibility and freedom. Recent college graduates want to have the freedom to move around. They're just beginning their careers and haven't decided when and where to settle. For this reason, renting an apartment instead of moving right into homeownership is often the smarter choice. Young people can move for a new job or to simply try out another city without being tied down to a mortgage. Rather than settling down immediately after college, millennials are focused on finding the right job, a city that fits their personality and trying new things.