More married homeowners are bringing in renters to cover housing costs — especially in the West

February 13, 2019 - 2 min read

Renter roommates

The number of married couples living with roommates has more than doubled since 1995. According to new data, nearly 280,000 married homeowners had renters on their properties last year. In the costly Western housing markets, the trend is growing even more.

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Moving in

According to a new study from Trulia, married homeowners are increasingly taking on renters in order to afford rising housing costs. The share of married, homeowning couples with roommates was up almost 40 percent from the historical average last year, with more than 280,000 instances across the country.

“Most people probably assume that getting hitched means their days of living with non-relatives are over, and in general this is true – a relatively small number of married households has a non-related roommate,” said Cheryl Young, Trulia’s chief economist. “But the phenomenon has become far more common over the past two decades, especially in the nation’s most expensive markets.”

In total, 4.2 million U.S. households had roommates or renters as of last year. This amounts to 3.28 percent of all households in the country.

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Helping with housing costs

The data show that married couples tend to take on renters and roommates when housing costs get out of had. The trend peaked in 2012 during the housing crisis and bottomed out once the bubble burst.

But now, the trend is back on its upward tick — especially in higher-cost markets in the West.

“At the metro-level, the rate of married couples who take on roommates is highly correlated with affordability and is most evident in expensive markets,” Young said.

In Honolulu, 2.5 percent of all married households have roommates or renters on-site — nearly five times the national average. The rate has increased by 78.2 percent since just 2009. In Orange County, California, more than 2 percent of married households have one.

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Other cities with high shares of homeowners with renters are San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Los Angeles and Oakland, California; Seattle, Washington; Salt Lake City, Utah, Portland, Oregon; Las Vegas; and Washington, D.C.

“While correlation is not causation, it’s notable that as housing costs have risen in many of these expensive markets, the share of married-with-roommate households has too,” Young said. “With the exception of Orange County, markets with the highest rates of married couples living with roommates have also seen the biggest increases in the rate of such couples.”

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Aly J. Yale
Authored By: Aly J. Yale
The Mortgage Reports contributor
Aly J. Yale is a mortgage and real estate writer based in Houston who has contributed to Forbes and worked for organizations such as The Dallas Morning News, PBS, NBC, and Radio Disney.