Rental household growth may be a limited long-term trend

Older and married-couple renters and others who have turned away from homeownership in recent years may return to it once they have the opportunity.

If so, then the current surge in the multifamily and single-family rental markets may begin to reverse, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies' 2012 report. About one million renter households were added to the market in 2011, the largest jump since the 1980s. Many of them are renting in response to the current economic circumstances, however.

As home prices and inventories stabilize, lenders grow less concerned and their personal finances improve, these households might seek to become owner-occupiers once again. More than 4 million new tenants have begun renting housing since 2005, and some may be waiting for home prices or other indicators, even if practical limitations do not prevent them from making a purchase.

The renter population has become increasingly diverse, according to Multifamily Executive. The question now facing rental property management firms and other stakeholders is how many of the new renters will stay as their options open up. Some have suggested that the shift is as much psychological as financial, indicating a significant number may choose to rent and the age at which people seek homeownership could be pushed back.