Top earners, or Americans making $150,000 or more per year, are the fastest-growing renter segment, according to apartment search website RENTCafé. After analyzing recent U.S. Census data, the research team at the company found that more than 1.35 million high-income households became renters between 2007 and 2017, a 175% increase.
As of today, there are 43.3 million renters nationwide, with 2.1 million in the high-income category. In 2007, RENTCafé reports, only 774,000 people were represented in the demographic.
This begs the question: Why do those who have the means to buy a home opt to rent? The website concludes it may be a lifestyle choice. Monthly rent may be a smaller price to pay for the added flexibility of living closer to jobs and new, up-and-coming districts. Or, for some areas of the country, a large paycheck still can’t keep up with rising home prices.
The three cities that have seen the most significant increases in wealthy renter-occupied households in the past decade are Seattle; Charlotte, N.C.; and Baltimore. According to the study, Seattle’s high-salary job market in IT and quality management is the reason the city became the decade’s fastest-growing wealthy-renter market. In 2007, Seattle had roughly 2,900 wealthy renters; that number increased to 21,300 10 years later.
For the top urban areas with the highest number of wealthy renters, New York City and San Francisco take first and second place, respectively. An estimated 249,000 high-income renters, the largest number in the U.S., live in the Big Apple, and 71,000 live on the opposite coast in San Francisco.
San Francisco bears another noteworthy characteristic: The city’s wealthy renters outnumber its wealthy homeowners. The number of wealthy-owner–occupied households went from 40,100 in 2007 to 62,400 in 2017, a respectable 56% increase. But during the same period, renter-occupied households climbed from 21,000 to 71,400 a 240% increase.
“The attitude toward renting at any income level is changing,” states the study's authors. “With renters becoming the majority population in many U.S. cities, the spike in the national population of wealthy-renter households could mean a change in attitude toward an American Dream that no longer belongs to this generation of renters.”