Big Jump in Americans Saying Renting Is Cheaper Than Owning

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More than three-quarters of Americans now view renting as more affordable than owning a home, the latest sign that rising mortgage rates and higher home prices will continue to pressure home sales.

Some 78% of people now say that renting is more affordable than owning, according to survey data to be released Tuesday by mortgage company Freddie Mac. That is up 11 percentage points from only six months ago.

The survey also indicates that demand for for-sale housing could remain soft in the coming months. Some 58% of renters now say they don’t currently have plans to buy a home—up from 54% in February, according to Freddie.

Demand for rentals swelled after the recession, as millions of families lost their homes to foreclosure and tight credit made it difficult for young people to buy homes. Rents rose by double-digit percentages in many cities and the share of families who couldn’t afford their rent swelled to record highs.

Meanwhile home prices plummeted and, for those who could qualify for mortgages, it was a great time to buy.

But this year, that dynamic has reversed. Rent growth has slowed in line with inflation in the last few quarters, as new rental supply hits a three-decade high. At the same time, home prices continue to grow significantly faster than incomes and inflation and mortgage rates have risen nearly a percentage point from the beginning of this year. That has made it significantly more expensive to buy a home.

David Brickman, president of Freddie Mac and the head of its multifamily division, cautioned that renting remains unaffordable for many families. But buying lately has become even more unaffordable.

“It’s the worst of both worlds,” Mr. Brickman said.

Two-thirds of renters say they have had difficulty affording their rent at some point in the past two years, according to the Freddie survey. Nearly nine in 10 renters in what Freddie deems “essential” fields like health care and education say they have had significant struggles to pay rent during the past two years.

Mr. Brickman cautioned that if more people decide to continue renting that could eventually reverse the current dynamic and make rents once again begin to rise quickly.

“I do worry that it may be short-lived, that it’s some reaction to rising rates, but the underlying demographic trends are not slowing at all,” he said.

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Source: Housing Trends Feed