Renting is the new normal

Talking about property is a national obsession, second only to chatting about the weather. This topic has become somewhat pessimistic of late; every day in the papers a new article is printed which reports on sky-rocketing house prices and the ever-dwindling chances that young people will ever have of owning their own home.

This compulsive hand-wringing is exemplified perfectly in professional victim group Generation Rent, who seem to see renting a home as akin to rummaging through a skip for food. It’s a snobbery that Generation Rent is unable or unwilling to readily and openly admit, an obsession with social status which clashes with its ‘for the people’ public sensibilities.

But when did we start viewing tenancies as a social blight in this country?

“For many the idea of lifelong renting is something to strive away from at all costs,” says City A.M.’s Paul Stanworth. “But renting should be seen as a positive lifestyle choice rather than a social or economic curse. I believe that the change in attitude will come as the range and standard of rental options available evolve.”

Rentals are often depicted in the public consciousness as grim, grey tenement blocks, but that simply isn’t true. Considerable resources are going into resolving this country’s housing crisis, including the Built To Rent scheme, which will result in an array of attractive and affordable property developments. As Stanworth points out: “You need only to look at international examples, such as the US multi-family sector, or Dutch or German models, to see that where good quality large volume options exist there has been an overwhelming shift in attitudes towards renting.”

According to figures released this week by PwC, the number of people renting homes in the UK in 2025 is expected to be slightly greater than the number of people who own with a mortgage. “Driven by a decade of soaring house prices pre-crisis and lower loan to value ratios post crisis, the deposits needed by first time buyers have risen significantly. As a result, a generation of private renters have emerged and this will increasingly be the norm for the 20 to 39 age group,” says Richard Snook, senior economist at PwC.

Far too often, renters find themselves comparing their current living situation with that of their parents or even grandparents when they were the same age, when the reality is that the world has changed and a new normal has been established. Just as job security and financial stability are no longer guaranteed for graduates trying to make their way in the world, nobody has a ‘right’ to own a home. And why feel inferior about renting, when thousands of your peers are doing exactly the same?

Instead, why not focus on the positive aspects of renting, such as the freedom and flexibility afforded you by a short-term tenancy? And then there are the increasingly convenience-focused features of rental properties which you wouldn’t find in a traditional home, including gyms and concierge services. It’s time to stop living in the past; renting is the new owning.

George Spencer is CEO at Rentify.