Rise of mature renter

Nia Williams

June 24, 2011

The figures, compiled from a survey of more than 10,000 flat and house sharers, suggest a growing number of mature adults are choosing, or are forced by financial circumstances, to live in shared accommodation.

Shared living was once the preserve of students and twenty-somethings. But the impact of the economic crisis, and changing expectations and views on home ownership have led to sharing becoming a necessity for a far wider range of people.

Across the regions, Wales and East Midlands have the highest percentage of sharers aged 40 and over, with 21% and 19% respectively. Slightly surprisingly, considering the cost of property, London has the lowest percentage of mature sharers with just 8% aged 40 and over.

The survey also highlights a large group of serial sharers – who dream of one day owning their own place but for now are left with no choice but to rent a room. A third (32%) of those surveyed have already lived in four or more flat/house shares, and one in five said they had been renting rooms in shared accommodation for more than six years.

The survey also revealed that almost three quarters (72%) of flat and house shares comprise three or more people and almost half (45%) of flat shares are four or more people.

When survey respondents were asked why they were flat sharing, nine out of ten said the main reason for sharing is financial, and almost two thirds (63%) said they could not afford to rent on their own even if they wanted to.

More than half (54%) of those in shared accommodation still dream of one day owning their own home, but believed it would be at least five years before they could afford to climb on the property ladder. One in ten said they could never see themselves ever being able to buy a property.

Two of the UK’s most expensive areas for property, London and the South West, have a significant proportion of sharers (10% and 12% respectively) who earn more than £40,000 a year but admit they’re still not in a position to buy.

Matt Hutchinson, director, SpareRoom.co.uk, commented: “For years younger people have chosen to flat-share – mostly because it’s cheaper and often more fun. Now we’re seeing many more mature people sharing too. For some this will be a lifestyle choice, but I suspect that the real reason is financial.

“Sharing is an affordable option but is also highly flexible. Renting by the room means it’s easier to move wherever work takes you without tying yourself to an area.

“It is a sign of the times that we are starting to see a growing demographic trend towards older flatsharers. In fact, we could be seeing the start of a significant shift away from home ownership and towards shared living into later life. It is not inconceivable that within five to ten years the demographics of many UK streets could radically change, with high population densities of 40, 50 and 60-somethings living under the same roof.”

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