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Americans' Biggest Motivations to Move This Year

Christine DiGangi

Money is the chief motivator in American renters’ decision to move (or not to move) in 2014, according to a survey from Apartments.com.

Among renters who plan to move this year, the most common reason (24.6%) they’re looking is because they want a cheaper apartment. For those planning to stay put, 47.3% said they couldn’t afford to move elsewhere. The data comes from an annual survey of more than 1,500 renters, though Apartments.com does not provide a breakdown of how many of those renters are or aren’t moving — it merely analyzes the motivators behind their plans.

Those planning on staying in their rentals said they’d only consider moving under a few conditions: if they won the lottery (51.5%), if they received a promotion or lost their jobs (45.6%), moved in or stopped living with a significant other (20.7%), experienced disruptive neighbors (19.5%) or could find affordable options (13%). Most of these options involve finances.

A growing number of renters (44.1%) are former homeowners. That’s up from 35.1% in 2013 and 33.5% in 2012. Of those former homeowners, 21.5% of them couldn’t afford a home anymore (up from 14.2% in 2013), and 54% said they wished they still owned a home. Thirteen percent lost their homes to foreclosure or divorce.

How Credit Impacts Renters

Affordability may be at the forefront of renters’ minds, but something the survey didn’t explore is how credit plays into consumers’ living decisions. Mortgage lenders comb your credit history — post-housing-crisis regulations require them to verify your ability to repay the loan — but landlords check your credit, too.

Owner-occupied homes make up the majority of living units in the U.S., but 36.1% of occupied units are filled with renters, according to 2012 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Interestingly, 43.1% of renters spend 35% or more of their household income on rent, compared with the 25.8% of homeowners who spend that much of their income on their monthly homeowner costs. (Such costs include the mortgage payment, insurance, taxes, fees and any utility bills that may apply to a living unit, according to the Census Bureau.)

Actually, 38.2% of homeowners with a mortgage put less than 20% of their household income toward owner costs. These numbers make homeownership look more affordable, so what gives?

A common reason surveyed renters gave for choosing a rental over owning a home is the flexibility it allows, as well as the low-maintenance nature of a rental and not being responsible for unexpected repairs.

It could be the credit aspect, too. Those with a poor credit history may not qualify for mortgages, making renting the only option. But even with renting, it helps to keep your credit scores high. That way, you’re more likely to have your rental application approved, and you may not have to worry about paying credit deposits for utility bills, as some states require.

No matter your living preference, it’s smart to keep up with your credit scores, so you keep your options open. You can see your credit scores using free tools like Credit.com’s Credit Report Card — it shows you what areas of your credit profile need attention (perhaps paying down debt or making bill payments on time), so you can improve your scores and give yourself the best chance at your dream living situation.

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