Generation rent: rental habits and perceptions across generations

Is the face of Generation Rent changing?

Landlord advice

29 March 2017

As over-45s continue to join Generation Rent, we’re digging deep into the data mine of our recent survey* to find out whether there’s a divide between the rising number of older renters and the younger generation of millennial tenants (aged 18-34).

Of our Tenant Survey participants, 47% were millennials and 28% were 45 or over, reflecting the greater number of young people in private rented housing. From their responses, we’ll examine the attitudes, concerns and motivations of both groups, as well as the differences (and similarities) between older and younger tenants.

Reasons for renting

As house prices continue to rise, one thing that unites both age groups is the perceived inability to get a mortgage. 40% of 18 to 34s and 44% of over-45s cited this as their main reason for renting.

For better or worse, relationship issues also play a big role. 10% of over-45s say they’re renting because a relationship has ended, compared to 5% of millennials. By contrast, just 1% of over-45s are renting because they’re in a new relationship, compared to 4% of millennials.

Renting lifestyle

It’s not all about commitment, however, as significant and similarly sized minorities of both groups (17% of millennials and 21% of over-45s) say they are renting simply because they prefer the freedom and flexibility, and 21% of millennials and 23% of over-45s agree that they fit the free-spirited stereotype of Generation Rent.

Where the age groups differ is on what, exactly, being ‘free-spirited’ means. Over-45s are much more likely to see themselves as non-materialistic than millennials (28% v 15%) and want to avoid the troubles that come with ownership. 21% of over-45s say they like being free from DIY duty, and 49% are happy to be rid of repair costs.

Millennials, meanwhile, are much more likely to see themselves as ambitious (13%) or travellers (16%). They value the ability to move at short notice (37%), especially for job opportunities (22%).

Tenants for life?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, older renters are much more content to stay in their rental property for the long-term. 55% of over-45s plan to stay in their area for at least five years, which is something just 33% of millennials will commit to. The preference for flexible renting and frequent moves among young people is only part of the story though.

As you might expect, the generations are also divided by their optimism over whether they’ll be able to buy their own property. 35% of those ambitious millennials told us they’re renting while they save for a mortgage, compared to just 7% of over-45s.

Property preferences

The contrasting attitudes to the renting lifestyle, and how long will be spent in a property, is also reflected in the kind of property each generation chooses – but not as much as you might think.

Renting just part of a house or flat is much more common among frugal millennials (21%) saving for their mortgage than among over-45s (11%). And at the top end, fewer millennials (47%) have a whole house to themselves than older renters (56%).

In the middle, however, both young (30%) and older (29%) tenants are almost equally likely to rent a whole flat. The reasons for this crossover could be the number of older tenants selling their houses to downsize, and younger tenants who want to start a family but are unable to buy.

Satisfied tenants?

27% of over-45s said they feel happy or very happy about being a tenant, compared to just 16% of the younger renters. The emerging division so far suggests that younger tenants see renting as a route to a better future, rather than a goal in itself, while older tenants seem to be making an active lifestyle choice.

Perhaps the clearest indicator of this divide is the number of renters who envy homeowners. 71% of young renters told us they were jealous, and only 50% of over-45s felt the same.

What we see, then, are many themes that cross over the age boundaries of Generation Rent. The challenges of getting onto the property ladder appear to affect all ages, and concerns over the cost of running a property add to money woes. Meanwhile, the desire for freedom and flexibility remains strong in both groups.

And as a landlord, you can help your tenants meet their renting desires by providing a safe, stable environment, protected by AXA Landlord Insurance.

*AXA survey of 1000 tenants living in Great Britain, conducted in July 2016