‘Rent Burdened’: 30% of Americans Took out a Loan to Help Pay Rent, Half of Them in the Past Year

Moving in can be quite exhausting. stock photo
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While most renters are interested in owning a home in the future, this is still a years-away goal for many. According to a new survey, the majority of renters polled say they can’t currently save up any money right now.

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The new survey conducted by rewards app Piñata — a program which works with renters to build their credit and get cash back for paying their rent — found that 64% of renters polled say they are not being able to save any money at all right now, let alone a down payment, confirming their status as “rent-burdened.” Further, the survey found that 30% of respondents said they’ve taken out a loan before to help pay rent, and half of those respondents had done so within the past year.

Lily Liu, CEO of Piñata, told GOBankingRates that with many renters being financially impacted by the pandemic due to job losses and other unforeseen challenges, it’s unfortunate — but not surprising — that loans were needed in the past year in order to make ends meet.

“With home prices jumping 9% from a year before, and another 9% expected over the course of this year, more potential homeowners will be left renting,” Liu said. “With more people renting, and less available units, rent prices have skyrocketed, surpassing even pre-pandemic levels. Based on those statistics, we can infer renters may continue to need extra support to make their monthly payments. But we’re hopeful that things will get better for renters as residential construction permits shot up by over 25% annually.”

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She added that this increase in new rentals could help meet the demand, lower the competition and decrease the competitive prices renters are currently facing.

The survey also found that 38% of those polled said they wish they could be saving for a home right now. Asked what renters can do to achieve the goal faster, Liu said to work on building your credit.

“Obviously saving up money for a down payment is important, but having good credit is a major factor in purchasing a home, from impacting interest rates to even getting approved at all,” she said. Indeed, the survey noted that 25% of renters polled don’t even know their current credit score, and 30% weren’t actively doing anything to improve their score. 

“There are many ways to build credit, including paying your credit card bill, car payments or student loans on time each month, but those options may not be possible for everyone. In fact, 45 million adults are considered credit invisible, which can cause these Americans to be completely left out of financial systems in the U.S,” she said. “While renters make up 36% of the 122.8 million households in the U.S., their largest monthly expense does nothing to help them build their credit. In fact, many renters don’t know that their monthly rent payments don’t automatically impact their credit.”

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Using apps such as Piñata can help toward this goal, as it reports rent payments free of charge to a major credit bureau.

“Rent reporting can increase a person’s credit score by an average of 60 points, based on a TransUnion study, which can give them access to better mortgage rates,” Liu said.

Other recommendations would include having a strict budget, ideally with a savings goal, to track your expenses and see where you can cut back.

“Consider if there are side hustles or opportunities to earn extra cash. Try round-up apps that automatically round up to the nearest dollar on your purchases, which help you to add to your savings in automated smaller increments,” she said.

Additional survey findings include that less than 10% of respondents said they were currently saving more than $500 a month. Of those, 55% say they are only able to save up for an emergency rather than a large future purchase, and only 31% said they’re saving for a home.

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“A majority of the respondents admitted to not being able to save any money at all right now, not even necessarily for a house,” Liu said. “While that may not exactly feel surprising, given the current economy and inflation rates, it should give everyone pause. Talk to almost any financial advisor and they’ll tell you the classic, well-established rule that you should be saving 20% of your income. This is a big deal if half of the 100 million Americans renting are potentially not able to save any money. That means a huge chunk of the economy is at risk and can’t afford to ever buy a home, much less pay for unexpected emergencies.”

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.

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