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Economy helped boost number of renters in America

Millions of Americans have heard the traditional reasons for buying a home, like the freedom to remodel the kitchen or the chance to put down roots in a community, but decided: "No thanks. I'd rather rent."

In a new infographic, called America "The Great Rental Society." Nowadays, 43 million households rent their homes, rather than own. Not surprisingly, expensive cities like New York and San Francisco have an especially high number of renters. But even in many smaller cities across the country, the majority of residents are renting.

Long ago, more Americans wanted to own their homes

For decades, the federal government tried to help Americans buy homes, with strategies that made mortgages easier to attain and afford. In 1940, only about 44 percent of households owned their home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But in the following decades, more people became homeowners.

In the first years of the 2000s, lenders were turning away fewer people who wanted a mortgage. Census data indicated homeownership hit its peak in 2004 at 69 percent, according to U.S. News & World Report. And then the nation hit something else: A financial crisis.

Major recession caused big shift to renting

Millions of people lost their homes to foreclosure. Many others watched as their homes dwindled in value. As unemployment rose, more people lost their jobs. In many cases, they couldn't move in search of a new job because they couldn't sell their home.

Renting became more appealing, according to housing experts at Harvard, who noted that "Renting provides a flexible and financially suitable housing option for many Americans."

People in their 30s have made up the biggest group rushing into renting. But 20-somethings and retirees have embraced renting in higher numbers, too. They're finding a lot of options, from single-family homes to apartment complexes with swimming pools and clubhouses, both downtown and in the suburbs.

And they're finding that just as homeownership has some advantages, so does renting. As the Harvard authors noted, the benefits of renting include:

  • Less difficulty moving if you need a new job or a cheaper place

  • Less need to come up with cash up front, since a security deposit and last month's rent on a rental usually costs a lot less than the down payment and closing costs when you buy

  • Less stress over maintaining your home, since you can call the landlord to do repairs

  • However, if you do go the rental route, don't forget about renters insurance. This covers your clothes, furniture, electronics and other valuables if certain disasters strike, such as a flood, fire or robbery.

    Need renters insurance? CoverHound is a leading provider of insurance quotes for renters in the U.S.

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