The Case For Suburban Renting

This is Part 1 of a two-part series.

Photo by Hutomo Abrianto on Unsplash

At this time we are witnessing two major segments of the American population move towards home and apartment renting and far, far away from owning. The downsizing Boomers and mobile Millennials are looking for rentals in or near their hometowns which has caused an explosion in rental property development in a walkable downtown.

I am witnessing this first-hand within my suburban hometown of Montclair, NJ. This shift towards renting is absolutely changing the landscape of how and where these two demographics work and live.

For my parent’s generation — the Baby Boomers — I’ve seen my own father “move” away from homeownership and become a fulltime property renter for the first time in his life. And he’s 65 — sorry, Dad.

I believe what he and his Baby Boomer cohorts are realizing — is that it’s time to uproot from home with the endless physical and emotional burdens of both high costs and constant maintenance. Just like us, the millennials, the Baby Boomers are shifting their perspective to a mindset that where they live now may not be where they live in a month from now. That’s partly because they are living longer and better than any generation before them in recent history.

At the same time, for Millennials, the appeal of home ownership has all but lost its appeal. Generally, we are seeing higher-than-average home prices, ballooning taxes and the unpredictability of the job market. These are all competing reasons as to why millennials are deciding to rent.

For most of us, we enjoy the (many) advantages that renting has to offer — particularly the fact that we are not being tied down to one place (instant mobility) and that, in itself, is very convenient. Lots of new rental complexes come jam-packed with luxurious amenities that we simply cannot turn away from.

We also don’t have much cash on-hand to own a home — so that may be a problem too.

Both groups have much in common though — such as seeking an active, healthy and stimulating community. Everyone looks forward to abandoning their dependence on personal vehicles. And so we are seeing a shift towards more green alternatives such as “actual walking” or biking into town with nearby stores, restaurants, and entertainment.

If you happen to need a car — there’s an app for that. Fair.com (which I personally use) started a car-subscription service where you open the app, select which car you want to drive based on your budget and go pick it up. This provides much instantaneous pleasure.
The cars are off-year, used cars — but are still pretty much in mint condition with a few thousand miles. Best of all, your monthly subscription cost is essentially half the amount it would be for the same car if you leased a brand new one.

Virtually no one in either group is objecting to “higher-end” amenities such as heated or lap pools (if you are one of the lucky ones to be able to afford it). These rental apartments also typically include upscale coffee bars, fully-equipped gyms, movie and performance venues, and a little greenery for Fido to run around in while performing his business.

Photo by Jesse Schoff on Unsplash
It all comes down to affordability, of course.

Being able to recognize the differences not only between these age groups but also the differences between high-end renters vs mid to lower-end — can lead to a lot of profitable ventures from the developer and owner standpoint. The central goal, albeit difficult, is to find a common link in terms of location, amenities and lifestyle preferences — while at the same time creating a perfect harmony for finding a comfortable price range amenable to both Dad and son.

Next Up: What specifically are Millenial and Baby Boomers looking for when scouring their local rental market? What factors get weighed more heavily than others? Finally, what are building developers and owners doing to woo these “bookend” populations? For what it’s worth — it’s definitely working.

What do you think? Leave a comment below or tweet at me here: agreenwaldHQ