The Changing UK Tenant: Evolving lifestyles

The Changing UK Tenant: Evolving lifestyles

From marriage and kids, to health factors and the products they aspire to own, how have the lifestyles of those renting in Britain today changed?

Their parents wanted one thing, but they want another.

For young people living in the UK today, the things that once mattered to previous generations now matter a little less, replaced by new goals, new ambitions and new yardsticks with which to measure success.

Our introduction outlined that the people living in your rental property in Britain in 2016 belong to Generation Y – and they share few of the values your previous tenants once held in such high regard.

Look back 20 years ago or more and, by the time Britons had reached their mid-twenties, things seemed straightforward. Settle into a job, settle down. Get married and have kids, or at least plan to in the near future. Owning cars and homes were the key wealth indicators. It was a narrative that was played out by millions of people for years.

Now, however, things are different:

Tenants are getting married later

According to the Pew Research Centre, just 26% of Generation Y is married. Put into context, 36% of Generation X were married at the age Y’s are now at, while it was 48% for Baby Boomers and a massive 65% for Traditionalists.

Like many other counties, it was once commonplace to see a young bride proudly walking down the aisle on her big day in Britain. But this is something that’s fast becoming something of a rare occurrence, as now fewer than one in seven woman (14%) are younger than 25 on wedding day, a huge shift from the 80% of under 25s that tied the knot between 1965 and 1970.

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Charted: The historical average age for marriage in England and Wales









Men 23.8 years old 25.7 years old 31 years old 33.2 years old
Women 21.7 years old 23.1 years old 28.9 years old 30.9 years old

This steady rise was further underlined in 2014 when the Marriage Foundation think tank suggested that fewer than half of British 20-year-olds would ever get married.

So if Generation Y isn’t in a hurry to become a husband and wife, what is it doing instead?

The proportion of British adults living alone almost doubled from 9% in 1973 to 16% in 2011 – and it’s the Generation Y-dense 25 to 44 age demographic that’s the most responsible for this rise, with adults in this age group six times more likely to live alone in 2011 than they were 38 years previous.

But it is cohabitation that is now the fastest growing relationship status in the country.

The number of women aged 18-49 living unmarried with partners tripled from 11% in 1979 to 34% in 2011. Today 83% of couples now opt to cohabit prior to getting hitched, as the number of UK individuals registered as cohabiting doubled in the 15 years between 1996 and 2011.

Reasons for these shifting patterns:

  • High cost the average UK wedding now costs £20,983, meaning those that do want to wed may have to save and wait longer to do so
  • Increased education – with more people than ever attending university, working lives are starting later than they did in previous generations. It also means that workers are now in more rewarding careers and want to advance their personal development before concentrating on settling down.
  • Marriage no longer an institution – Generation Y has seen its parents rush into marriages that led to divorce, and they’d rather wait longer to find the perfect future partner
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Tenants are having kids later

For the first time ever, the average age of new mothers in England and Wales hit 30 years old in 2013.

Like marriage, the rise in age follows a similar steady path of growth over the last four decades. Between 1972 and 1973 new mums averaged 26.5 years old, and 28.2 years old in 1995. In addition to these figures, published by the Office for National Statistics, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service also points out that the UK mothers are now the oldest in the world.

Outside of wedlock, the average age of new mums is 20-24 years old and 20-29 years old for fathers. These numbers increase to 30-34 and 30-39 respectively for new parents that are married.

A Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) spokesman: “The growing trend of women delaying motherhood until their late thirties or early forties is, we believe, an inevitable one, because of the increasing equality in the social, professional, financial and corporate environment that we live in. The average age of fatherhood has also been rising.”

Reasons for these shifting patterns:

  • High cost – in the first 12 months UK parents spend an average of £11,224 raising a child. In total, it costs £229,251 to raise a child to 21 years in Britain today.
  • Increase in the number of female workers – greater economic independence for women means that the concept of women staying home to raise children, with men as the main breadwinners, is an increasingly outdated ideology.
  • Demand for personal development – as with new marriage patterns, young men and women in the UK are more career-focused than ever and, to some, having children is seen as a barrier to achieving work-based goals.

Tenants’ buying habits have changed

With marriage and kids previously came the house, the family car and other purchases to signify prosperity and success.

Generation Y does not think like this. The goods their parents purchased with their disposable income are seen as less of an urgent buy for today’s tenants.

This generation does not equate success with homeownership, preferring to rent in order to fulfil the goals they want to reach in their lives. We will discuss this in more detail in a separate article in this series.

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Owning a car may have been an integral possession for their parents, but not for Generation Y. 30% of young people don’t intend to purchase a car in the near future. A further 25% might purchase one if circumstances dictate one is needed, but they’re otherwise indifferent, perhaps explained by Generation Y’s preference for living in dense urban environments where owning a car may not be necessary.

Buying the latest TV for the family home is now also becoming less important. 30% of Generation Y see this as an important product, but not a big priority purchase, while 20% don’t intend to buy one in the near future.

And when it does come to buying products, Generation Y walk their own path again. Having grown up surrounded by technology, buying patterns are now increasingly becoming shaped by online resources and devices. Product information, reviews and price comparison websites can all determine how one item is chosen over another. Indeed 57% of Generation Y actually use their devices to compare prices online whilst they’re in a store.

A further 34% of 18 to 35-year-olds consult social media before making purchases, compared with just 16% of those aged 36+.

Reasons for these shifting patterns:

  • New priorities – products such as cars and homes traditionally follow key life milestones, such as marriage and parenthood. With both of these being pushed back, so is the purchasing of accompanying products.
  • Proliferation of technology – whereas their parents would buy on the high-street, Generation Y’s access to technology has changed the way their buy products, meaning that they will now do more research before coming to a decision.

Property Investor Summary: What does this mean for your investment?

The people that used to live in your property saw renting as a stop-gap.

Those in their twenties and thirties who weren’t already married or planning to have kids were on the brink of doing so. Your rental property served a purpose on the way to, in most cases, achieving the aspiration of homeownership.

But a significant proportion of those living in your property today aren’t at their stage in their lives yet. They’re not ready to settle down and move on. They harbour no immediate aims to own a home, or a new car.

For them renting fits perfectly with their lifestyle. But your property may not. Is your home of the highest quality, a place where someone would want to live for an extended period of time? Crucially, in a technology-driven world with alternative products just a click away, is your property delivering on all the things needed for Generation Y to fulfil their ambitions?


Investing in Manchester:
Why is Manchester at the heart of the build-to-rent revolution?

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