Even with a booming stock market and improving economy, many U.S. families do not seem eager to plunk down a down payment on a quintessential part of the American Dream - a house.
"This does not surprise us because it's a natural reaction to market conditions," said Steven Kirsch, managing director and chief operating officer at investment manager DRI Fund. "Housing prices continue to increase, however wages remain stagnant. This creates an affordability issue for most people interested in purchasing a home."
While the total number of households in the U.S. grew by 7.6 million between 2006 and 2016, the number of households headed by owners remained relatively flat, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau housing data. However, the number of households renting their home increased significantly - with the percentage of households renting growing from 31.2% in 2006 to 36.6% in 2016. That level is greater than the high of 36.2% set in 1986 and 1988, and almost matches the 37% in 1965.
"The fact that there is such a high amount of renters is not a surprise at all," said Dan Sullivan, an analyst at Triad Real Estate Partners in Chicago. "Demand for rental apartments will stay at high levels largely due to continued robust household formation and a lack of affordable housing options, especially for detached single-family houses."
In fact, Sullivan said an additional 4.6 million new apartment units will be needed by 2030 to keep up with demand.
"The factors for this include younger people delaying marriage, the U.S. population aging and immigration," Sullivan said. "To put that into perspective, the U.S. multifamily industry needs to add 325,000 new apartment units annually by 2030."
Kirsch said while rates remain historically low, many folks are unable to obtain a mortgage due to tight regulation on banking institutions to underwrite mortgages which meet certain standards.
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"Many Americans don't fit into this standard underwriting box because of bruised credit from the recession or having alternative sources of income and credit history," he said.
Additionally, preferences - especially among Millennials - has changed since the Great Recession, Kirsch said. Many people prefer to remain flexible through renting as opposed to being tied down in a long term investment such as owning a house.
"There are also a shortage of homes for sale on the market and a flood of rentals," he added. "One of the factors is that many of the world's largest funds are turning foreclosed homes into single family rentals there are far more options on the rental side."
Bruce Ailion, a Realtor at RE/MAX TOWN and Country in Atlanta, said another factor in the rising rental market is credit score.
"The current average score is 687," he said. The Federal Housing Administration, he added, "will make loans to people with a 620 and above, but many people do not have the credit to qualify to purchase."
Ailion said many with good credit do not fit the traditional lending ratios, and student loans are a significant factor in this area, as is little or no savings.
"One reason is rents have been increasing faster than income especially in high-cost areas making it very difficult for people's ability to save funds to buy a home," he said.
"While there are many low down payment programs available, a significant part of potential buyers still believe more than a small down payment is needed," said Ailion, adding they also are unaware of down payment assistance programs.
However, even with low interest rates making ownership more affordable in many jurisdictions, issues still arise. Low interest rates and constrained supply are causing real estate value to accelerate to the point that the benefit of getting a low rate loan is offset by increased prices that cause people to continue to rent, said Ailion.
With fewer and fewer people staying at the same job for 30 years and other long-term commitments seemingly becoming short, society just seems to be changing.
"Today we live in a more transient society," he concluded.
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