Most Americans still want to own a home. But many remain anxious about the boom-and-bust cycle of the housing market in the past decade — and renting has become more appealing.
Attitudes about the American dream have changed, according to a national by the MacArthur Foundation, a major grant-making private foundation in Chicago.
“Americans are going through a transformational period; the unconventional is becoming conventional,” analyst Peter D. Hart said in conference call with the media.
The survey uncovered major revelations that suggest housing attitudes are part of the transformation.
Despite an improving economy and a broad-based recovery in housing, three of four people still believe the U.S. economy is in trouble or the worst is yet to come.
Also, after decades of equating homeownership with the American dream, the sense that renting is somehow undesirable appears to be fading.
“The economic crisis that hit in 2008 is still fresh in people’s minds,” said Humphrey, a project manager with Health Diagnostic Laboratory Inc. in Richmond.
Housing is seen as a risky investment because so many people were unable to pay their mortgages or they owe more than their houses are worth, he said. “As the market continues to improve and more time passes, I believe the perception of housing will improve, too.”
The U.S. homeownership rate fell to 65% in the first quarter, hitting the lowest point in nearly 18 years, according to the Census Bureau. It peaked at 69.2% in 2004.
Meantime, rental vacancies are falling, indicating that rental inventory nationwide is getting tighter. Urban chic apartments are being rented almost as soon as they come on the market.
One renter said, “At this point in my life, renting is far more appealing than living under the weight of a mortgage,” she said.
“Financially, I know a mortgage payment could be comparable with a monthly rent payment. However, tack on utilities for a larger space, yard care maintenance, purchasing of major appliances and other curve balls that may come with homeownership — I’d much rather have a landlord to take some of that burden away.“
She said she hasn’t paid much attention to the volatility of the housing market, because she knows it’s not her time to buy.
“I’m focused on paying off student loan debt, nurturing my relationships and developing my career,” she said.
Renting always has appeal, especially in certain stages of life, said Laura Lafayette, CEO of the Richmond Association of Realtors. Homeowners in general spend more on education and pay more in taxes.
The dynamic is no longer simply renting versus owning, said Hart, the research analyst.
“Many of the positive attributes that have long been associated with homeownership are fading, and on the flip side of the coin, it is remarkable that nearly half of all homeowners can picture themselves one day becoming a renter,” he said.
“It is stunning to see how Americans are beginning to favor a new balance that serves both the homeownership and rental markets.”
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