Renting doesn’t have to be something you do while you save for a house – it can be a way of life. But how renting fits into your day-to-day isn’t always black and white. Rent.com.au insights reveal that renters, in most instances, fall into one of four categories.
In August, we carried out a survey of the status of our renters, triggered by two factors. First, we keep reading in the media that ‘most tenants’ were renting reluctantly and this generalisation felt inaccurate. Second, we are always interested in how we can better serve Australia’s growing renter population.
To fully address the varied needs of Australia’s 7 million renters (around 30% of the population), it’s worth considering several tiers of renters:
The survey found that the majority of respondents (46 per cent), were currently renting, but weren’t sure what was next on the cards. However, roughly a quarter of respondents said they preferred what renting offered. The most popular reason cited for choosing rent as a ‘lifestyle choice’ were themes of ‘flexibility’ and ‘opportunity’.
What do you think about renting?
I’m renting, but I’m in transit right now. I’m not sure what’s next
The house for the transitioning renter signifies a love-hate relationship. Some days, more hate than love. Our transitioning renter has probably never owned a home. They’ve usually moved a number of times, gypsied between a few countries and while they’ve considered the idea of home ownership, the thought of settling down is enough to send shivers down their spine.
Most respondents indicated they fit this category more than anything else (a majority vote of 46 per cent).
More than any other single factor, the renter wrestling with the transitional phase will likely ponder the extent to which they are stable. This means how stable their job is, how stable their marriage or relationship is and how stable their career path is. If the answers to any of these signal doubt for the transitional renter, they’re unlikely to commit to staying in a rental for more than a year or so.
“Renting suits my life right now.” (Rent.com.au survey)
I’m renting, but I’m saving up to buy a house
Almost a quarter of respondents to the recent Rent.com.au survey (22 per cent) indicated that while they were currently renting, their goal was to purchase a house.
The short-term renter is usually between owned properties and could be experiencing a period of changed circumstances. Respondents in this category indicated they were sometimes between buying and selling a home, were renovating, or were experiencing divorce or separation. This renter can shift between being a ‘Reluctant Renter’ and an ‘Accepting Renter,’ if, rather than being between owned properties, they’re saving for a house deposit.
One renter responded, “I can’t afford the deposit for a house yet, so for me, renting is my only option.” Interestingly, considering the comments on the survey, these renters are more ‘frustrated buyers’ than ‘reluctant renters,’ as they’re often in the process of buying a house or ready to buy but are unable to find the right property.
“I would much prefer to be paying my own mortgage off.” (Rent.com.au survey)
I’ve just moved out of my parents’ house. I’m renting for the first time
Fresh out of mum and dad’s place, the first-time renter (who made up around 5 per cent of our survey respondents) is more likely to move into a small one or two bedroom apartment. They know that a bigger house would encourage them to add in more decorations (we’ve all been there!) and each extra room will cost a little more to heat and cool. One of the advantages of living in smaller rentals is avoiding these expenses. Down the track, moving to a bigger place is a relatively simple endeavour when a child (or two) come along.
These renters don’t want to spend a lot of time cleaning and maintaining the place and so enjoy the low-maintenance lifestyle that they want at this point in their life. They typically enjoy living somewhere they couldn’t afford to buy and the lower financial burden that comes with renting and not buying (no mortgage).
“Renting for the first time is a big personal step. There is a little excitement when first moving into a new place.” (Rent.com.au survey)
I enjoy renting – it’s a lifestyle choice for me
On the other end of the scale to the short-term renters are those people we consider ‘long-term renters’. Usually content with their circumstances, they may find themselves financially unable to buy, but consider renting to be a lifestyle choice, offering flexibility and opportunity to live in places they might otherwise not experience. “I’m at a stage in my life where I’m happy renting,” one person responded. “I don’t want to spend my money on a mortgage.”
These ‘lifestyle’ renters’ will often rent homes in more desirable or convenient locations. There’s a good reason for this: The geography of buying differs from the geography of renting, so it’s typically more affordable to rent in an inner-urban area than to purchase a property there.
Interestingly, a number of respondents said they can live in a better property by renting than by buying a home, which could be a reflection of the fact that sales prices are still beyond reach for many people.
“Renting allows me freedom of choice about where I live if I don’t like an area I can move quite easily. I also save money on insurance, land rates, water rates and house maintenance. I am lucky I have great landlords who actually look after their tenant via the property manager who is also good. Rental prices in WA are quite competitive at this point in time.” (Rent.com.au survey)
The lesson in all of this?
Had an amazing job opportunity in a far-flung locale? If you rent, the moving process is much more straightforward. In fact, renting in different neighbourhoods is a great way to get a feel for a new area (or city). It’s worth exploring until you can find the place that’s right for you. Rent.com.au offers renters the opportunity to try before they ‘buy’ through Airbnb (Read more about that here).
Buying a house is a great thing to do when you’re settling down in an affordable spot near everything you need for the next 10 years. But for the rest of us, it’s worth having another look at renting.
Something to think about.