While the dream of homeownership has been sidelined for many, it appears to have not been derailed.   Freddie Mac says the responses of renters to a recent survey it conducted shows that many are struggling financially but they still hope to buy a home.  Eventually.

Freddie Mac surveyed 2,044 adults in August.  The total included 672 and the report issued by the company this week relies primarily on the perceptions of that subgroup about renting in the post financial crisis marketplace.  This is the first in what the company says will be a quarterly series of surveys "to learn about renters' preferences towards the housing choices available to them, the constraints preventing them from obtaining housing that they think would better suit their needs, and the drivers for their decisions."  Except for the financial situation information directly below all data refers only to responses from the survey subset of renters.  

Many renters say they tend to live payday to payday; 45 percent say they have just enough money to get by and 17 percent say they run out of money for basics, like food and housing before the next payday. However, only 38 percent of homeowners indicated a similar financial hardship.


When asked to agree or disagree with some favorable aspects of renting the top areas of agreement were that renting:

  • Provides freedom from home maintenance responsibilities (78 percent)
  • Allows more flexibility about where one lives (68 percent)
  • Protects against home price declines (68 percent)
  • Is less stressful than owning (65 percent).

When presented with two negative aspects of renting, 80 percent agreed that a renter is subject to the whims of the landlord and 61 percent agreed or strongly agreed that it feels like one is throwing money away.   

Renters were also presented with a list of favorable factors about homeownership and asked to agree or disagree. The top factors with which they agreed or disagreed were that homeownership:

  • Is something of which to be proud (91 percent)
  • Can be passed on to your children (90 percent)
  • Allows more flexibility to design a home the way you want (89 percent)
  • Gives you more privacy (86 percent)
  • Protects against rent increases (86 percent)
  • Gives you more independence and control (81 percent)
  • Is an investment that allows you to build wealth (80 percent),

On the negative side, 50 percent agreed that homeownership is too great a responsibility and 25 percent said they had no interest in ever owning a home.

While 39 percent said they expect to purchase a home in the next three years (61 percent said they would rent for at least three more years), younger renters are more likely than older ones to hold that hope.  Forty-seven percent of those aged 25-34 and 58 percent of the 34-44 age group indicated that three year window compared to only 27 percent of people 45-64 and 21 percent of those over age 65.   Fannie Mae said that renters who haven't owned a home by age 45 are likely to continue to rent throughout their lifetime.

The leading reasons renters see themselves renting over the next three years are financial.  Half said they did not have money for a down payment and 38 percent said they could not afford the monthly mortgage payment.  Thirty-one percent pointed to a poor credit history.  Some however said they expected to continue to rent simply because they did not want the responsibilities of homeownership (39 percent) or that they thought it was not a good time to buy from an investment standpoint.  Younger renters were more likely to report financial constraints while older one indicated a reluctance to take on additional responsibilities.  Among those over the age of 65 73 percent said they did not want the responsibility of owning a home.

"It's no secret that for the last several years, consumers have felt more strapped financially, particularly renters," said David Brickman, executive vice president of Freddie Mac Multifamily. "Many renters are not buying homes because of a perceived lack of ability to afford the down payment or mortgage and poor credit history. But there also is a segment of renters who simply do not want the responsibilities of owning a home."