"At the top of that list is concern about credit. Do I have a good enough credit score to get a mortgage? But then as we move down list, next one is qualifying for a down payment and closing costs and having enough income is No. 3. So it's really the basics of qualifying for a mortgage that these younger renters are concerned about," said Steve Deggendorf, a finance executive at mortgage giant Fannie Mae.
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Fannie conducted a survey of current renters and found distinct changes in why renters choose to rent rather than own in just the one year between 2012 and 2013.
In 2012, 35 percent of renters surveyed said they were renting in order to make themselves financially ready to own; that dropped to just 26 percent in 2013.
More renters now say they rent because it is a more affordable option—this despite the fact that several other reports have shown that in most housing markets, it is cheaper to own. This may be due to the fact that those rent versus buy reports look at monthly payments and income but not at what it actually takes to buy the home. Lenders today are requiring larger down payments, and mortgage insurance premiums have gone up.
"Younger renters have told us by a vast majority that they eventually want to own a home, but the road to get the mortgage financing is going to be pretty difficult," added Fannie Mae's Deggendorf.
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Younger Americans, referred to as the millennial generation, were hit disproportionately hard during the recession, and their employment numbers are still the weakest of all workers.
"Young-adult employment still isn't halfway back to normal: before the bubble, their employment-population ratio hovered in the 78-80 percent range," noted Jed Kolko, chief economist at Trulia. "Having a job matters for housing. Just 12 percent of employed 25-34 year-olds live with their parents, versus 20 percent of 25-34 year-olds without jobs."
Social changes are taking hold among millennials as well. The number of young renters who say they rent in order to have more flexibility in future choices jumped last year. That share went from 16 percent in 2012 to 19 percent in 2013.
"A lot of younger renters when they get out of college, they don't want to settle anywhere, they want to find a job somewhere, stay there for a year, year and a half, and today a lot of younger people want to move around, even if not moving from city to city they are moving around the city," said Jonathan Eppers, CEO of RadPad, a company that facilitates the rental process through a mobile app.
Eppers, 31, is a renter himself.