Why America Has Ditched Homeownership to Become a Renter Nation

Why America Has Ditched Homeownership to Become a Renter Nation

3 min read
Sterling White

Sterling White is a multifamily investor, specializing in value-add apartments in Indianapolis and other Midwestern markets. With just under a decade of experience in the real estate industry, Sterling was involved with the management of over $10MM in capital, which is deployed across a $18.9MM real estate portfolio made up of multifamily apartments. Through the company he founded, Sonder Investment Group, he owns just under 400 units.

Sterling is a seasoned real estate investor, philanthropist, speaker, host, mentor, and former world record attemptee, who was born and raised in Indianapolis. He is the author of the renowned book From Zero to 400 Units and the host of a phenomenal podcast, which hit the No. 1 spot on The Real Estate Experience Podcast‘s list of best shows in the investing category.

Living and breathing real estate since 2009, Sterling currently owns multiple businesses related to real estate, including Sterling White Enterprises, Sonder Investment Group, and other investment partnerships. Throughout the span of a decade, he has contributed to helping others become successful in the real estate industry. In addition, he has been directly involved with both buying and selling over 100 single family homes.

Sterling’s primary specialities include sales, marketing, crowdfunding, buy and hold investing, investment properties, and many more.

He was featured on the BiggerPockets Podcast episode #308 and has been contributing content to BiggerPockets since 2014, with over 200 posts on topics ranging from single family investing and apartment investing to mindset and scaling a business online. He has been featured on multiple other podcasts, too.

When he isn’t immersed in the real world, Sterling likes reading motivational books, including Maverick Mindset by Doug Hall, As a Man Thinketh by James Allen, and Sell or Be Sold by Grant Cardone.

As a thrill-seeker with an evident fear of heights, he somehow managed to jump off of a 65-foot cliff into deep water without flinching. (Okay, maybe a little bit…) Sterling is also an avid kale-eating traveller, but nothing is more important to him than family. His unusual habit is bird-watching, which he discovered he truly enjoyed during an Ornithology class from his college days.

Sterling attended the University of Indianapolis.

Instagram @sterlingwhiteofficial

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I see a major shift in the real estate market as we become even more of a renter nation. Why is it happening? Is there a silver lining to this economic cloud?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, American homeownership plunged again in 2017 to its lowest rate since 1965. After the peak of 2004, when around 70% owned their homes, now just 62.9% own versus rent. It’s a throwback of almost a century—and the lowest on record, according to Census and Federal Reserve data. Why is that happening? Why is this trend only likely to continue gaining steam? Should we be buying homes or renting instead?

Related: It Gets Stranger: How Trump’s Tax Plan Impacts Homeowners & Real Estate Investors


According to a Senior Economist at Wells Fargo Securities, one of the biggest challenges right now is affordability. House prices are rising far faster than incomes. Access to credit just isn’t there like it used to be for regular home buyers. High rents aren’t helping either. Even renters who want to buy can’t get home loans, can’t save enough for down payments, and are finding it harder and harder to make the leap.


Economic Uncertainty

If there is one certainty about the economy right now, it is uncertainty. There is political and global uncertainty, uncertainty as to when tech and the stock market will crash, and uncertainty surrounding when many jobs will be replaced by new technology. As many as 80% of human jobs could be made redundant in the next few years.

As habits change, big box stores are going bankrupt—or are at least closing locations and shedding workers to try and stay afloat. These include many of the big names that were famous back when our grandparents were in their peak working years. Everyone must be prepared to need to move with very short notice, and owning a house with a big mortgage can be a major roadblock to that.


The upcoming generations are far more equipped with access to knowledge than any before it. My generation saw what happened to their parents losing their houses during the big crash. They felt the devastation. They can also look up for themselves and see that many housing markets are pushing new highs. That perceived pain of loss can outweigh the obvious benefits in many would-be home buyers’ minds.


A Rent.com survey describes Millennials as a generation of movers. Affordability may be one driver, but so are jobs and lifestyle. Forbes data shows 45% of employees don’t plan to stay at a job for 2 years. A report from CNN Money says Millennial graduates are likely to have more than 4 jobs by the time they are 32 years old. Plus, the new mobile workforce is really able to work from anywhere and is enjoying a more nomadic lifestyle. No one wants a big ball and chain of a mortgage holding them back from this.

Related: Forget the American Dream—Renting, Not Homeownership, is the Path to Financial Freedom

Homeownership is a Liability

People are also starting to realize that owning a house is more of a liability than a dream. The new American Dream may be financial freedom and the freedom to travel, not the white picket fence and a mortgage.



Owning a home does have benefits. It can still be important. A renter nation definitely benefits landlords and investors more than renters. On that same note, a renter nation creates more opportunities for investing and getting ahead financially, and more are investing in real estate, while still renting the places they live in. If the above points relate to you, know that it’s OK to reinvent your own dream and lifestyle. But do consider investing in real estate to retain the advantages, even if you’ll enjoy the freedom of renting too.

We’re republishing this article to help out our newer readers.

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Do you see more and more Americans becoming renters in the coming years? Why or why not?

Weigh in with a comment!