More people renting as housing market sinks

June 14, 2011 2:06:34 PM PDT
23-year-old Xander Clarke is at an age when some people consider buying their own homes.

"I thought about investing in purchasing a home, my father purchased a home when he was my age," Clark said.

But as the housing market sinks, Xander sees that his homeowner friends are struggling.

The numbers tell the tale. Home ownership has dropped steeply from its peak rate above 69% in 2004 to the current just above 66%. Home ownership is now at the level it was in 1998. But even those who have the money and can withstand the tougher credit checks are opting not to buy, but to rent instead. Chris Mayer researches housing for Columbia University business school.

"I think a lot of people are looking and saying, 'even if I can make the down payment even if I have the income and the credit, is this really the best time to jump into the market?'" Mayer said.

Doug Bibby is president of the National Multi Housing Council.

"We're seeing lots of people opting not to buy right now even though they can afford it because some are betting on housing prices falling further. There are some predictions they will fall more. There are others who are betting on the ability to change," said Bibby.

And with the jobless rate at 9.1%, being able to pick up and go where the jobs are is critical.