In 6 Fla. cities, 1 out of 3 renters could be buyers


WASHINGTON – Aug. 5, 2016 – The U.S. homeownership rate has slowly fallen in recent years to currently its lowest level since 1965, but research from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) find that there are affordable metro areas right now with above-average hiring and a large segment of current renters who earn enough income to qualify to buy a home.

Two Florida cities make NAR's top 10 list of national metros with a high number of renters who can afford to enter the market: Lakeland and Tampa, where more than two out of five renters qualified to buy a home. Nationwide, NAR says one out of five renters (21.9 percent) qualify.

For the study, NAR reviewed employment growth, household income and qualifying income levels in nearly 100 of the largest metropolitan statistical areas across the country to determine which areas with employment gains above the recent national average also have the largest share of renters who can currently afford to buy a home. Of the top 10 metro areas with renters who earn enough to buy based on 2015 data, nine were either in the South or Midwest.

There's been a significant increase in renter households – both young adults and those who lost their home – since the Great Recession, and especially in metro areas that have seen robust job creation and a resulting influx of new residents, says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. This has led to a multi-year run-up in rents in several markets that have contributed to many renters' inability to advance into homeownership.

"Even in a time of expanding home sales, steady job growth and historically low mortgage rates, the homeownership rate recently tumbled to its lowest level in over five decades as many renters struggle to juggle escalating rents without commensurate income gains," Yun says. "However, this new study reveals that there are several affordable, middle-tier markets with solid job gains and a large segment of renters who earn enough to buy."

The top 10 metro areas highlighted in NAR's study were all outside of the West Coast and each had a share of renters who qualify to buy that was well above the national level (28 percent).

Top U.S. markets with a high share of renters who can afford to purchase a home

  1. Toledo, Ohio (46%)
  2. Little Rock, Arkansas (46%)
  3. Dayton, Ohio (44%)
  4. Lakeland, Florida (41%)
  5. St. Louis, Missouri (41%)
  6. Columbia, South Carolina (41%)
  7. Atlanta (40%)
  8. Columbus, Ohio (38%)
  9. Tampa, Florida (38%)
  10. Ogden, Utah (38%)

Florida markets in NAR's study and percent of renters who can afford to buy

  1. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville (41.1%)
  2. Lakeland-Winter Haven (41.1%)
  3. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (38.0%)
  4. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach (33.3%)
  5. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford (32.0%)
  6. Jacksonville (31.3%)
  7. Cape Coral-Fort Myers (28.7%)
  8. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton (28.2%)
  9. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach (18.5%)

According to Yun, it's no surprise that many of the markets with the most renters qualified to buy are in the Midwest and South. The median existing-home sales price in these two regions continue to be lower than the Northeast and West, and while many of these areas were slower to recover from the recession, improvements in their local labor markets in the past year have pushed their hiring levels to at or above the national average growth rate.

"Overall housing affordability and local job market strength play a pivotal role in a renter's decision on whether to buy a home or sign another lease," says Yun. "The good news is that other recent NAR survey data shows that those residing in the two regions were the most likely to say that now is a good time to purchase a home. With mortgage rates now at their all-time low, these identified markets are well-suited for the many renters financially capable and interested in taking advantage of the stability and wealth-building benefits owning a home can provide."

© 2016 Florida Realtors®

Reprinted with permission. Florida Realtors®. All rights reserved.

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