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Buying a home in many parts of the country is notoriously expensive, but that’s not what keeps Liz Gebhardt renting her 1896 Edwardian-style two-bedroom unit in the Ashbury Heights neighborhood of San Francisco.
Instead, Gebhardt, who is in her 50s, chooses to rent for a host of other reasons.
“Owning a piece of real estate doesn’t define who I am,” says, Gebhardt, senior vice president of brand strategy at Trier & Company, a Bay Area communications firm. Besides, she enjoys the flexibility of renting and not being locked into a home mortgage.
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Like a growing number of boomers and retirees who have good credit and the financial resources to own a home, Gebhardt prefers renting — something she’s done since the 1980s — and has no immediate intentions to buy.
She is not alone.
Renting has been on an upswing for more than a decade in the United States, especially among boomers and retirees. A report from the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies found that in mid-2015, nearly 43 million households rented, up nearly 9 million from a decade earlier and the biggest increase in any 10-year period on record. And since 2005, Americans in their 50s and 60s have accounted for the largest portion of the country’s increase in renters.
More recently, an April survey from Credit Sesame — which polled more than 1,000 renters about why they rented instead of owned — revealed some interesting findings about older Americans.
Thirteen percent of boomers ages 55 to 64 said they plan to buy a home in the next six to 12 months. So did 6 percent of those 65 and older. But the vast majority of renters said they have no plans to buy a home in the near future, including 87 percent of those 55 to 64 and 94 percent of those 65 and older.
When asked why they continued to rent, about half of renters said they rent because they cannot afford to buy a place where they live or work. Four out of 10 older Americans said they rent by choice. Specifically, 38 percent of those 55 to 64 and 40 percent of those 65 and older said they can afford to buy, but choose to rent, according to Credit Sesame.