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Renters are staying put longer as homeownership slips further out of reach

U.S. renters are staying put longer than they were a decade ago, partly because many are priced out of homeownership. On the flip side, it also means that they are saving money that could possibly go toward a mortgage down payment. 

While most U.S. renters move within five years, a growing number are staying much longer. In 2022, one in six renters (16.6%) had been in their homes for 10 years or more, up from 13.9% in 2012. The majority of renters stay put for one to four years, with 41.8% falling into this category in 2022, an increase from 39.9% a decade earlier. 

Meanwhile, short-term renters — those who move within 12 months — decreased to 25.2% of the renter population in 2022, down from 32.2% in 2012. This is according to a Redfin analysis of renter tenure data from the U.S. Census Bureau

“The uptick in tenure is beneficial for renters and their landlords,” Redfin senior economist Sheharyar Bokhari said in a statement. “While the fact that people are staying longer in their rentals may mean they can’t afford to buy a home in today’s market, staying put also means they’re saving some money that could eventually go toward a down payment if they do have a goal of homeownership. 

“Staying in the same home means they’re likely to face smaller rent increases, and they’re saving money on moving costs and application fees. Landlords typically prefer long-term tenants because they don’t have to spend money on cleaning and marketing vacant units.”

Several factors contribute to this trend. Many renters are being priced out of homeownership as the National Association of Realtors reported that the median sale price for existing homes soared to $407,600 in April 2024, a 5.7% increase from the previous year and a record high for the month of April. 

Elevated mortgage rates further complicate saving for a down payment and monthly mortgage payments, encouraging renters to stay put. Additionally, while housing inventory has risen recently, more is needed.

Conversely, rental prices have also surged. Redfin data indicates that asking rent prices have jumped more than 20% since 2019, discouraging renters from moving from one rental home to another. Furthermore, some renters prefer the flexibility that renting offers.

Bokhari also noted that renter tenure might soon decline due to a boom in apartment construction in 2023. This could provide more options for renters and cool rent-price growth.

Younger renters tend to move more frequently

Over half (55.5%) of Generation Z renters stayed in their homes for 12 months or less in 2022, while just under 4% stayed for five or more years. 

In contrast, roughly one-third (32.9%) of baby-boomer renters have lived in their homes for more than  10 years, while another one-third  (32.2%) have been in place for one to four years.

Renters in the Texas capital of Austin moved the most frequently, with 38.2% staying for 12 months or less in 2022, the highest rate among the 50 most populous U.S. metros. Denver and Nashville followed, both at 34.4%. 

In contrast, renters in New York City stay put the longest, with just 15.8% moving within 12 months in 2022. Riverside, California, and Los Angeles followed with shares of 16.5% and 17.5%, respectively.

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