Millennial Home Buyers Send a Chill Through Rental Markets

Rising homeownership is adding to the jitters in the residential rental market, which has slumped recently after a long stretch near the top of the commercial real-estate industry.

For most of the current economic expansion, declining ownership rates have enabled landlords of apartments and single-family homes to raise rents far faster than the pace of inflation. Demand has been fueled by the millions of people who haven’t had the money, credit or desire to pursue the traditional American dream.

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But amid a hot housing market, the homeownership rate is now rising, in part because millennials are reaching the age when they’re forming families and settling down.

The Census Bureau last week reported that ownership increased to 63.9% in the third quarter, the highest level since 2014. The rate was up from 63.7% in the second quarter and 63.5% a year earlier. It remains below the 69% clocked at the peak of the housing bubble a decade ago.

Still, the recent trend is causing analysts and investors to wonder whether the rental market’s good times are coming to an end. Investors pumped tens of billions of dollars into the sector during the recovery, building and buying apartment complexes and amassing large portfolios of single-family homes.

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