Atlanta renters: young, female and thinking about buying

Metro Atlanta renters are, on average, a solo-living, youngish-skewing, female-dominated bunch.

More so than the United States as a whole.

Roughly six of every ten renters is a woman, according to a recent survey by the National Multifamily Housing Council and Kingsley Associates that included about 120,000 renters nationally and of 5,296 renters in Atlanta.

According to the survey, among Atlanta renters:

— 58.9 percent are women.

— 62.5 percent are between the ages of 25 and 44.

— 48.5 percent live along.

That is slightly higher than national averages in those categories, the survey found. The biggest gap of the three is in solo living: Just 40.6 percent of renters in America live alone.

After the housing bubble burst in 2006 and 2007, the country plunged into a bitter recession that was centered around real estate. As more than eight million jobs disappeared – and many mortgage payments ballooned – millions of Americans lost their homes through foreclosure and became renters.

But as the nation emerged, the number of renters has continued to climb.

According to the group, there are 20 million apartments in America and 38 million renters – 1.6 million more than five years ago.

As the housing market struggled to recover, that bulge in renting raised a crucial question: Was the shift away from ownership economic-driven and temporary? Or was it a demographic and cultural shift that would dampen home sales for many years?

Economists are still arguing about that.

But at least according to the council's survey, the pendulum is going to be swinging back. A lion's share of renters – 76.3 percent – said they expect to own their own homes within five years.

The changing balance between supply and demand may be making apartments much less affordable – even compared to ownership. However, the jump to buying might also be hampered – at least in the healthier markets – by the continuing increase in home prices.

A recent study by Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies showed that 49 percent of all renters are "cost burdened," that is, paying more than 30 percent of household income for housing.

In Georgia, 50 percent are “cost-burdened,” the center found.

“While rental cost burden is being felt most strongly by low-income families, even moderate-income renters who earn as much as $45,000 per year are feeling the pinch, particularly in urban markets,” wrote the authors of the center’s report.