The rise of middle-aged renters

Single young professionals are increasingly choosing to settle in family suburbs rather than city centres, says report

A new group of renters - described as the 'Midlife Stopgap' -  are taking up affordable properties and forcing young adults to rent in suburbs previously dominated almost exclusively by families.

According to the report from Experian, the Midlife Stopgappers tend to be maturing singles in employment, who are renting short-term affordable homes, possibly due to the breakup of relationships or making a new start after a career move.

After students, it says that this group has become the most likely in the UK population to rent their homes. The typical Midlife Stopgapper is aged between 35 and 55, renting two or three bedroom Victorian/Edwardian terraced properties, and has an average income of £20,000-£29,000

The top towns for this group are Torquay, Portsmouth, Crawley, Penzance and Chatham.

"A rapid expansion in the rental sector has reversed almost 100 years of rising owner occupation," said Nigel Wilson, Managing Director of Consumer Insight & Targeting at Experian. "Renting is no longer the preserve of the young career starters but we increasingly see groups of older people and people of varied wealth joining them.

"A prolonged stay on the bottom of the property ladder creates a shortage of supply for newcomers, forcing them to seek alternative options. This is amply demonstrated by a recorded increase in the length of residency for younger families in starter homes, rising to 11 years from five, forcing others to look to rent property as a first step."

Experian has also identified another, younger, group which it has called 'Flying Solo', people who are no longer looking to rent in city centres but are increasingly moving out to attractive suburbs to find affordable, quality housing.

These people are typically 18-25 year old singles, just starting off their careers, on starter salaries of £15,000-£19,000, with a level of financial security. Key locations for this group are Hatfield, Bournemouth, Uxbridge, Staines and Dartford.

"With a long term rise in renting creating higher density, less family-oriented neighbourhoods populated by people with increased disposable income due to a lack of outgoing cost on house related expenses, we expect to see an increase in demand for convenience stores and fast food chains along with more spend in bars and pubs," said Nigel Wilson.

However, a second report by Get Living London and London School of Economics  suggests that the near doubling of size of the private rented sector and the increase in house prices in London over the last decade means the conditions are now right for a larger number of families to rent in the capital.

The report's authors also commented that strong local social networks arecrucial to attracting families to an area to rent, with tenants in London concerned about the lack of security afforded by short term leases and by poor maintenance of their rental homes. Overall, it concludes that renting is a choice made for economic reasons by people who want to own their homes, but cannot currently afford to buy in the area they want to live in. 

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