Home Buyer Pessimism Bodes Well for Multifamily

Columnist Lew Sichelman on how a difficult housing market continues to benefit multifamily.

Lew Sichelman

Lew Sichelman

It has been said that liars figure and figures lie. But if the latest crop of numbers to cross this desk are correct, the future is bright for the rental housing sector because the American Dream of owning a home is slip sliddin’ away faster than an Aaron Judge home run leaves the ball park.

A recent Gallup poll found that just 19 percent of Americans believe now is a good time to buy. And another survey, this one from Home Bay, discovered that many renters have moved beyond the notion that they’ll buy their own places and turned their attention to other financial priorities.

It isn’t all peaches and cream for multi-family housing. Even though rent growth has slowed a bit of late, for example, another survey of 1,000 renters found that more than half wondered whether they’d have enough money to score an apartment and almost three-quarters said they had delayed nailing their first place because of money issues.

But people have to live somewhere, and Gallup says most folks aren’t interested in buying, at least not right now. Indeed, the share of adults who think now is as good a time to buy as any has fallen to its lowest point in 45 years, according to the poll of 1,013 people. The survey is a measure of people’s perception of the housing market, separate and above from what they perceive about the economy in general.

People are a lot more negative,” a Gallup spokesman told MarketWatch.

At the same time, two-thirds of the renters surveyed by Home Bay said attaining home ownership is “hopeless” at today’s prices and mortgage rates.

That’s not to say they still don’t aspire to buying as opposed to renting, Indeed, 85 percent still have an ownership goal. But 44 percent said not this year. And 35 percent said a house with a white picket fence and a dog in the yard is no longer a part of their American Dream. It used to be, but not any more, they told pollsters.

Almost three out of four respondents don’t believe they’ll ever have enough money to buy, even though a third are willing to sell their own plasma if it will help them collect enough for a downpayment. Less gruesome, 73 percent are willing to take a second job to scrape enough together and 29 percent are willing to skip meals.

“The findings illustrate profound pessimism regarding the modern housing market,” said Home Bay, which is the research arm of the Clever Real Estate buyer-agent matching service.

Tough All Over

Of course, apartment residents are having their own financial issues.

For example, most first-time renters budget 30 percent of their incomes for rent, according to a survey from Pinata, a firm which offers rewards and credit building membership programs to residents through their landlords. But because incomes haven’t kept up with rising rental rates, that’s no longer a realistic amount.

In addition, while two-thirds factored a security deposit into their rental budgets, less than half factors such other costs as renters insurance, pet fees, moving costs and other charges into the equation.

The Pinata study also found that not only were renters worried about finding a place they could afford, they were just as worried as keeping it. Of the nine out of 10 who were concerned about losing their apartments, more than half were “very” worried.

But consistent with the Gallup and Home Bay surveys, Pinata found that 19 percent of first-time renters plan to extend their lives as residents beyond the typical three to five-year sweet spot with no set plans to become home owners.

You May Also Like