Meet America's New 'Renter Class': Baby Boomers

There was a time in American history when apartment living, particularly in the suburbs, was reserved for 20-something year olds who were happy to look beyond the cramped spaces and odorous carpets of multi-family housing units in their quest for cheap housing and freedom from the parental units.  But, as the Rent Cafe Blog points out, Baby Boomers are increasingly giving up their participation in America's perpetually re-inflating housing bubbles and opting instead to return to the smaller living accommodations of their youth.

We turned to U.S. Census data to see if it can shed some light on how renting has evolved since 2009 — around the time when the scales started tilting in favor of renting. We looked at changes in the number of renter households by age, education level, and family type.


National stats revealed that, between 2009 and 2015, the biggest changes in the renting population came from seniors aged 55 or over (up by 28%), compared to only a 3% increase in renters 34 or younger. By education, the highest increases were in renters holding a bachelor degree or higher (up by 23%), and by family type, in families with no minor children (up by 21%).


What do these three categories have in common? They all point to one group: empty-nest Baby-Boomers. Whether driven by a change in lifestyle, a consequence of the housing crash, or an inability to find affordable homes to downsize, senior households are embracing renting in droves.


“Lowering living expenses, looking for a different lifestyle, less house-related work and overall less responsibility can be achieved by downsizing, so a lot of retirees opt to rent.” says Simona Solomie, a real estate broker with Remax Masters of Morton Grove, Illinois, who works with home sellers, buyers, and renters in the western and northwestern suburbs of Chicago.

Converting that to numbers, roughly 2.5 million senior households joined the renter cohort nationwide between 2009 and 2015, while the number of renter households aged 35-54 added 1.95 million, and those younger than 34 increased by only 0.5 million in the same time frame.

Meanwhile, and not surprisingly, the markets that have seen the greatest surge in boomer renters are those that were hardest hit by the housing collapse: California, Florida, Arizona, Texas....

In all 20 largest U.S. metros studied, without exception, the rate of increase in senior renters greatly surpasses that of younger renters (see the green bars on the graph below).


Between 2009 and 2015, the senior renter population has grown the fastest in the metro area of Riverside, CA  (by 63%), followed by metro Tampa, FL by (61%) and by metro Phoenix, AZ (by 59%). However, the largest net increases were in Los Angeles metro (which gained 134,000 new senior renter-occupied households and lost 26,000 renter households under 34 years of age). New York City gained an additional 124,000 renter households over 55 during this time period and about 54,000 under 34.

And here is another look at the market-level data sorted by households:

Meanwhile, it's not just Baby Boomers, the most educated folks of America are also increasingly deciding that they want no part of the Fed's Housing Bubble 2.0.

If there was any doubt left that some people actually choose to rent, even though they could afford to buy, the latest surge in the number of highly-educated renters should help erase those doubts. Of all education levels, those holding a bachelor degree or higher account for the largest share of new renters added between 2009 and 2015 in both suburban and urban areas, percentage-wise and in net numbers. The number of renters who hold a bachelor degree or higher increased by 26% in the suburbs and by 20% in the cities.


The second highest increase in renters comes from people with some college education or equivalent (a 19% increase in suburban areas and 12% in urban areas), while those with a high-school diploma or less accounted for the smallest increase.


The national trend is confirmed at the metro level. In all 20 largest U.S. metros, except St. Louis, MO, the largest gains of new renters were people holding a bachelor degree or higher (green bars on the graph below). In Phoenix metro, renters with a bachelor degree increased by 48%, in Denver metro by 45%, in Tampa, FL metro by 38%, and in Atlanta metro by 37%. At the same time, the number of least-educated renters is decreasing in several metro areas, including Denver, St. Louis, Philadelphia, New York and Boston.


All of which raises the question, if boomers are giving up their basements to move back into apartments then where are their millennial children going to live after graduating with their $200,000 degrees?


bunnyswanson Tue, 10/24/2017 - 18:11 Permalink

Glad someone finds the plight of the middle class funny.  Americans are not exclusively being swept into the gutter; it is global.  Upper class, management and worker class may be more your style but as the story goes, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion leave no one alive but the Chosen Ones in the end.  You fall into that category of chosen ones, remember, establishing a victimhood status requires blood sacrifices every century to keep the old tears rolling down those muddy cheeks, as the richest shits on earth send their poor class into the camps to start another Ponzi scheme all over again.  Perhaps you should begin your diary.

HRH Feant2 Bud Dry Tue, 10/24/2017 - 18:54 Permalink

It is scary. I was on a website a few weeks ago and there were some sad stories about people that failed to structure their reverse mortgage properly. More than one person that said their name was not on the deed and their spouse had died. The spouse had not set up a revocable living trust. Also some of the comments looked like only one person signed for the reverse mortgage and after they passed away the spouse or family member was left with their ass in the wind.

Why not just take out a home equity loan? I don't like debt but many boomers are used to the latest greatest fin con. I predict this will end in tears for many.

In reply to by Bud Dry

HRH Feant2 Juggernaut x2 Tue, 10/24/2017 - 22:33 Permalink

I am not surprised. Got a letter from Discover (the credit card) and apparently they are handing out HELOCs.

Dangerous shit. Good luck to those people that think they can sell their house once it has a second mortgage on it. A HELOC is a second mortgage. They will find out the hard way.

I am guessing this time that people are not going to be allowed to stay in foreclosed homes for 10 years. All it will take is for the neighbor's to wake up to one person being given the boot by the county sheriff.

I lost a house in the last crisis. Hard fucking lesson. Very hard. I still haven't recovered. I don't think I ever will.

I was able to recover financially, repaired my credit, and I was able to buy a small home in a decent area. Will I ever recover emotionally? Still working on it. That was one helluva kick to my ego. Still is.

In reply to by Juggernaut x2

MisterMousePotato HRH Feant2 Wed, 10/25/2017 - 05:06 Permalink

Oh. All the smart people are renting. Right. Committing yourself to pay - what? - fifteen hundred bucks a month, every month, for the rest of your fucking life is beyond imbecilic, especially when one considers that that number will increase continuously for the rest of your life.Let's do a little arithmatic, shall we? 12 x $1500 = $18,000. Now that seems like a lot of money to me because, just a few years back, I bought a house, my home, for $13,900. Nice home.I paid cash (sold a bunch of stuff), so, just on account of that, I make $18,000 after tax dollars every year without even having to get out of bed. (A penny saved IS a penny earned.)Well, maybe this'll work out well for all them renters over the long term? Let's see. In forty years, say (not that I'm likely to still be around then), the renter will have paid $720,000 and I will have paid zero. The renter will have nothing and I will still have a nice place to live.I don't know many people who wouldn't like to have an extra $720,000, but I have pretty much everything I want, so ... I dunno. Take the Missus out to dinner?

In reply to by HRH Feant2

MisterMousePotato N2OJoe Wed, 10/25/2017 - 16:18 Permalink

I closed escrow on Valentine's Day in 2014.I paid $13,900 (plus a few hundred for this, that, and the other in closing costs).A "safe neighborhood?" I live in a safe town. In a safe county. In a safe state. By observation, there are no blacks (as in not a single one) that live in my town, nearby towns, or even the entire county, although the U.S. Census Bureau reports that there are, indeed, about 18 blacks who live in this county. I've never seen them.The front door latch on my house was inoperative when I bought the house. It remained so until just a few months ago, when I screwed a strike plate back into place. (The cats and dog had learned how to push the door open if they wanted in.) In other words, I lived for three years in a house in whichI could not lock my door. I couldn't even latch it shut.The water here is so clean that there are times they don't even treat it. Water is not fluoridated either. The lady at the water company tells me that my town has, to her knowledge, the cleanest water in the United States. I've walked over to where it empties out of the mountains into the settling basins and will attest to the fact that it certainly *appears* so.Much the same can be said about the air. And the weather. I lived in California for 25 years, and, yes, California has nice weather for sure.But I find the weather here to be nicer than California's except in the mid to late spring, although I recall some pretty shitty spring weather in California, too. Summers are unquestionably nicer here. Same kinda weather (very dry, sunny, and warm) except it is 15 degrees cooler and it actually rains once in a while. No mosquitos or any of that shit, which still amazes me each and every single day even though I left the east coast 40 years ago. I do not have any air conditioning, and have missed it only a dozen times, maybe, after three summers.In the fall, when the weather is nice, it is also nicer than in California. Yes, I equivocated. I live somewhere where there are four seasons. We already haave had, for instance, some snow a couple weeks back, but it melted in a couple days. A few nights of frost, too, which plays hell with the zinnias. But the last few days have been stunning. Clear, dark blue skies. Warm and sunny. No wind. Fall foliage. Weather that truly makes one glad to be alive. And - not that I believe it - the weather prognosticators are predicting another seven days of such weather.Some might find the winters here challenging. It actually isn't all that cold (nothing like the Dakotas or anything like that), but I did see the temperature drop to -2 on my front porch once last year. Old timers tell me it can get to -20, but the first two winters here, I never saw it get even as low as zero. In truth, it has only been about 15 degrees colder here than where I lived in California. That might not sound like much, but I will admit that there is a real difference between overnight lows of 25 degrees and overnight lows of 10 degrees. Still, I routinely go outside and perform firewood duties in the dead of winter dressed in nothing but a bathrobe and slippers. When the air is still (as it is almost always) it is far more comfortable here at ten degrees than it is on a train platform in New York City at 35 degrees. I speak from experience.I would be remiss if I did not mention that it snows here. I haven't seen it, but I am told (and my research confirms it), that my town is one of several places on Planet Earth where, now and again, a Perfect Storm forms and drops staggering amounts of snow. In fact, every decade or two, the National Guard has to be dispatched to my town to rescue its inhabitants. Remember that lake effect storm in New York a year or two ago? Like that, only twice as much. So far, I've seen maybe four feet at most acumulate, but that's a fair amount of snow. Great for the nearby ski areas, and seeringly beautiful. (The city does a pretty good job clearing the streets. In fact, the only time I've needed four-wheel drive was when, as a scientific experiment, I attempted the San Francisco type hill behind the gas station covered in ice and snow. I did actually make it about halfway up before sliding back down backwards out of control. From that experience, I recommend that such research be conducted without wives and children in the car.)The snow here has delightful qualities. It is as dry and fluffy as goose down. In fact, if I could only have one for snow removal purposes, I would choose a leaf blower over a shovel.My wife took a particularly salubrious photograph of our house last January on a beautiful sunny day right after a snowfall, and posted it on Facebook. It garned some 170 responses to the effect of "Oh, my God. That is so beautiful. I want to live there."Life here is not perfect. I have to, for instance, pay the city four dollars a month for sewer, payable quarterly. I decided to do so in person last time. Handed Counter Chick twelve bucks, and she asks, "Would you like a receipt?" I say, "Sure," and she fills one out. I ask her how she knew my name and address, etc., and she looks at me funny and says, "Everyone knows who you are. You're Henry's dad.""Henry" is my dog.Lest you think my experience unique, my neighbors Harold and Denise moved to Texas a couple months ago. My neighbor Bob bought their house. For $15,000. I have million dollar views out three sides of my house, but the view from their porch simply has to be seen to be believed. My wife met a lady at the grocery store who bought the house next to City Hall last month. For $24,000. A bit high, but it is right next to the creek, which would be nice, I guess. A few months back, there was a house for sale a couple streets over for $22,000. Really cute little house. I thought about buying it for my daughter, but decided it didn't get enough sun.Yeah. All these houses need work. So what? I'll bet yours does, too. I bought mine sight unseen over the internet. When I came to look at it six months later, I called my wife, and she asked (in much the same tone as yours), "Is it livable?"I hesitated (and I am someone who lived in a tent for years).Electricity. None. An old Zinsco panel and wiring that the power company wouldn't dream of energizing, and no one with even a grain of sense would even think about using. My branch wiring: Remember those experiments conducted by the CIA with LSD and spiders back in the 60's. You think I'm kidding, eh? Well, I live in a jurisdiction where one can do all such work entirely on their own. One doesn't even need a permit, although the power company has a policy requiring one. I spent 65 bucks for the permit, and about a month researching the project. Turns out to be not that hard after all. A few hundred bucks for stuff at the Home Depot and a couple days drilling, sawing, etc. The inspector laughed and asked me where I'd gone to electrical school. (Was meant as a compliment, I believe.) It was a pain in the ass trying to maintain the servers and other business infrastructure off a generator for five weeks while I got that sorted. To say nothing of not having a water heater. Bought a camp shower, filled it with water heated on a Coleman stove, and hung it in the shower.Insulation. None. I simply cannot understand how people lived here for a hundred years. The first winter, when it first got cold, the dog's water bowl in the kitchen froze. Solid. Like a hockey puck. That was a wakeup call. But, you know? It only took a couple days and little expense to fix that to the point where I could warm the house, and I've since improved things to the point where the biggest challenge now is not making the house too warm.I may heat my house with wood, but I do not live like the Unibomber. I have electricity. City sewer and water. Natural gas. Washer and dryer. The nicest shower I have ever had. High speed internet and three potentially lethal stereos. A really nice church. Walking distance to City Hall, the library, the pool, and the post office, by which I mean about a tenth of a mile. A tree-covered moutain in my back yard that starts underneath my kitchen sink. For practical purposes, I might as well own it.So, you tell me ... is that "livable?"Edit: p.s. I have a wife who is happy to live here, and proud of our house. It took her a long while to get with the program, but she looked around one day and said, "You know? I really like it here. I wouldn't move back to California for anything."To be sure, ours is a small life, but we are simple people. 

In reply to by N2OJoe

N2OJoe Drop-Hammer Thu, 10/26/2017 - 07:25 Permalink

Sounds like somewhere in the Appalachia which is great if you can retire and live cheap, but with no real economy to speak of, it is just not a viable option for most of us.Apologies for jumping to conclusions there, I think we were imagining two very different scenarios.In the rest of the country, you are much more likely to be better off renting and maintaining the ability to just pick up and leave when economic/tax situations change on a dime as well as not jumping into mountains of debt for an "asset" that is very likely to crash and burn in the near-mid future.

In reply to by Drop-Hammer

Pool Shark Cognitive Dissonance Tue, 10/24/2017 - 18:54 Permalink

Indeed, Cog.Mrs. Shark and I just cashed out of our 4,000 square-foot home that we custom built 15 years ago, and are renting a 2,700 square-foot equally nice place for less than 1/2 the cost in the same gated neighborhood. (The property tax and homeowners insurance alone on the old house cover about 3/4 of the rent on our new place; not to mention the savings on maintenance costs...)  Daughter Shark is away at college, so Mrs. Shark and I needed far less space. We banked the proceeds from the sale (the property we sold was about 90% paid-off at the time of the sale), and will be renting until retirement (about 5 years away).With the house reaching 15 years old, a lot of maintenance costs were just around the corner, and taking care of over a 1/2-acre with lawns and gardens became a real pain (not to mention expensive). Mrs. Shark says she has never felt so relaxed and comfortable; not having to worry about what happens to the house we're living in: it's somebody else's responsibility to fix and maintain it! In the interim, I expect a housing correction, and I also expect to leave the sinking ship of Kalifornia when we retire.When we decide which tax-friendly state we will be retiring in, we will either rent (if rents are 'soft') or pay cash for whichever residence we choose.For the first time in over 30 years, I am not a 'homeowner' - Man, it feels good!!![PS: If Trump gets his Tax "Cuts" through, Kalifornians will lose their property tax deductions, and 'homeowners' in blue states will get murdered on taxes...]

In reply to by Cognitive Dissonance

Omen IV Pool Shark Tue, 10/24/2017 - 19:08 Permalink

The property taxes are not sustainable - no one is oing to pay to educate the 70 IQ's who are not educable and therefore schools are very expensive baby sitting services for thugs and morons - why pay for someone else to have sex and spawn endless  useless eatersthere is no one beyind this crowd that will have the free cash flow to pay for the overhead of these properties even with Federal tax cutswe are coming to a break pointthe public pensions are not payable

In reply to by Pool Shark

buttmint BarkingCat Tue, 10/24/2017 - 22:26 Permalink

..when I was aged 25, I designed and began building my dream house. Skipped out on marriage and kids, so I still own my place.It's been a helluva journey. I started with $500 USD cash in 1980.Get this---am still at it! I luckily installed 4 apartments, which people love. I taught myself all the trades. It was not an easy row to hoe. I did 80% iof the work with one other helper, the rest solo. Hey, I WISH I could afford a crew, could not. I hadda get imaginative and creative. What do I hear now?".... YOU DIDN'T BUILD THAT!" FUCKHEADS, everywhere!

In reply to by BarkingCat

Lumberjack Cognitive Dissonance Tue, 10/24/2017 - 18:29 Permalink

Agreed. It depends on each couples situation. Some prefer 55+ communities here that are fabulous, others not so much. A few of the die hard boomers went the way of Cog, and good on them!

Here in MA, every high scale development has to by law allow x amount of low income tenants. Sadly, what I see are young (capable, well connected) liberals getting those rents.

In reply to by Cognitive Dissonance

HRH Feant2 Bigly Tue, 10/24/2017 - 18:48 Permalink

Which is the reason my plan is to rent out my house and live in an RV. If I don't like the neighbor's I can leave. Good.

Another day of hearing my stupid neighbor's dogs yap for 30 minutes. Cute to her, hell for me. I can't wait for the day I pull away and my place is being rented! My area has some excellent property management companies. Let them deal with everything and send me a check.

In reply to by Bigly

HRH Feant2 yogibear Tue, 10/24/2017 - 22:26 Permalink

Yep. Big fan of Bob's channel, CheapRVliving. I am not going to build my own rig but I have to credit him with giving me the idea of this lifestyle being possible.

I don't really want to be in a 55+plus park or one that only allows 10-years old or newer rigs, either. BLM land or a state park sound just fine to me.

Can't deal with tent camping these days. I need a bed and instant-on heat.

RV is the perfect solution. If I don't like the weather or the neighbor's I can move. Great!

I don't own an RV right now but was thinking about going anyhow and check it out. Rubber Tramp Rendevous, and, as Bob makes it crystal clear, this isn't another burning man for hippies and freaks!

In reply to by yogibear

yrad Tue, 10/24/2017 - 18:16 Permalink

Not much of a suprize. Boomers, like my mother last month, are tired of dealing with two story 4- bedroom homes with lawns and pools to care for.

This was easily foreseeable.

BarkingCat ejmoosa Tue, 10/24/2017 - 19:29 Permalink

Indeed.  About 10 years ago I looked at some high-end condos that overlooked the marina I kept my boat in.The lady agent was telling me that most of the people moving in there are middle-class to retirement age type individuals, who don't want the expenses of an upkeep of a house. Their big penthouse was about 1600 square feet and the monthly HOA was about $1,000. For $12,000 a year I can easily get Yard Service and all the exterior maintenance required for a house.The condos by the way overpriced  like a 2500 square foot home....both with an ocean view.   

In reply to by ejmoosa

roddy6667 ejmoosa Tue, 10/24/2017 - 20:55 Permalink

The lawn service won't pay the property taxes for you. One of my brothers just retired and pays $11,000 a year in property taxes, and it's going nowhere but up. That requires somebody making at least $8 an hour 40 hours a week to pay. I don't call that retired. And somebody has to pay for all the maintenance and repairs on his house.

In reply to by ejmoosa

waspwench roddy6667 Wed, 10/25/2017 - 01:44 Permalink

You will be paying the property taxes whether you own or rent, and the problems with condo and townhouse HOA fees (over which you have little or no control) and having to deal with the condominium association people far outweigh the inconveniences of taking care of your own property.Best bet is to move to an area with low property taxes and shrinking school system.   If you must rent look for a place with an overbuilt rental market where landlords have to compete for tenants.

In reply to by roddy6667

Sudden Debt Tue, 10/24/2017 - 18:20 Permalink

A lot of older people sell the villa's simply because of the fact that they fucking hate it to take care of that bigass garden and clean that bigass house. I have a pretty big garden... I'm like a slave to it. Sometimes I just want to replace it with a big japanese rock garden...

CultiVader Tue, 10/24/2017 - 18:22 Permalink

All my dumb ass dad can afford is tiny apt in AZ after his third wife took whatever he had left. I'd complain more about Dad but I'm busy tracking that cunt down so I can beat my inheritance out of her.