- 29 of 30 countries are majority homeowners, with Switzerland being the only exception.
- Renters are on the increase in 21 of 30 countries, with UK’s share of the population that rents up by 22% in just 5 years.
- The number of renters in the United States grew two times faster than in the European Union.
- Russia witnessed the biggest decrease in its share of renters, down by 28% over 5 years.
Rising housing costs, economic recessions, and demographic changes around the world have given renting a big boost in recent years. Has the world entered “the age of renting”? What does the cold, hard data say? In this international study, we analyzed the percentage (or share) of renters and owners in 30 of the most populous developed countries around the world, including the U.S., Canada, Russia, Japan, Israel, Australia, and some European countries.
Owning vs Renting Around the World: 29 of 30 Countries Are Majority Homeowners
Among the 30 countries analyzed, only in Switzerland more than half of the population rents, 56.6%. As it turns out, in a majority of countries around the world people still prefer owning their homes. Besides Switzerland, 4 other countries of the 30 studied had a percentage of renters above 40%, and, despite the latest push toward renting especially among Millennials, the U.S. and Australia are not among them. Those countries are Hong Kong (49% renters), Germany (48.1%), Austria (44.3%), and South Korea (44.8%).
Countries with low shares of renters are Singapore (9.7% renters), Slovakia (10.7%), Russia (12.9%), Poland (16.3%), and Norway (17.2%).
Renting in the United States of America has gained major popularity after the housing crisis and has been embraced as a lifestyle by people of all ages. However, the rentership share in the U.S. has not been able to outpace homeownership, fluctuating between 36% and 37% at its highest point, similar to renter percentages in Canada, The United Kingdom, France, and Japan.
Renting on the Rise: European Countries See a Surge in Renters
In spite of the fact that homeownership remains predominant around the world, renting is on the rise. 21 of the 30 countries we examined saw increases in their population of renters, with Europe in first position. 8 out of the top 10 countries with the largest renter share increase from 2010 to 2015 are in Europe: The United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Greece, Slovenia, Spain, Slovakia, and Finland.
The United Kingdom‘s share of renter population jumped by 22% from 2010 to 2015, the largest gain in the world. In net numbers, the UK added a massive 2.1 million renting households to its 65 million total population during the time period studied. The increased demand for rentals had an effect on rent prices as well, which rose by 14% while house prices increased by 5%, according to OECD data. In other words, the cost of rent increased almost three times faster than house prices from 2010 to 2015 in the United Kingdom.
Renting also gained popularity in Ireland, where the share of the population that rents increased by 12%, the second highest change of the countries studied. In net numbers, the increase was by a half a million new renter households, representing over one-tenth of Ireland’s 4.7 million total population. At the same time, the country boasts the most spectacular growth in GDP among the 30 countries we analyzed. During this time period, Ireland’s per capita GDP grew by 57%, according to data from the Worldbank, thanks to growing exports and foreign companies relocating investments for tax reasons.
With a rise of 11.7% in renter share, Denmark saw the third largest upward change. The increase in demand for rental housing resulted in a price hike of similar magnitude, as rentals became 12% more expensive during the same time period.
Other countries that made the top 10 for highest increases in renter share out of the 30 countries studied were the United States (9.3%), Greece (9.2%), Slovenia (8.6%), Spain (7.9%), Slovakia (7%), Finland (6.2%) and Hong Kong (5.3%).
How Does the United States Compare to Europe?
The U.S. is in 4th place with a 9.3% increase in renting population, gaining in net numbers 6.2 million renter households between 2010 and 2015. The percentage increase in the U.S. may not be as high as the UK’s 22%, but it is more than double the European Union’s average growth of 4%. EU averages rarely tell the whole story, however, so here are some examples.
The share of renters in Greece and Slovenia saw growth rates similar to those in the United States, both around 9%. Significant changes were also recorded in Spain and Slovakia, up by 8% and 7%, respectively.
Rentership remained constant in Portugal, Norway, and Belgium. Countries with a long history of renting, like Switzerland and Germany, didn’t see huge changes either, with the share of renting households expanding by only 2% and 3%, respectively.
Russia Tops the List of Countries with Shrinking Renter Populations
The share of renting households decreased by a whopping 28% in Russia between 2010 and 2015, the biggest drop in the 30 countries in focus. One of the driving factors behind this dramatic change was the changing political and economic climate of the country. Russians are showing less interest in renting apartments due to falling incomes. The second highest decrease in renter share happened in Singapore, where it declined by 13.4%.
The percentage of renters decreased by 13% in Poland (the biggest drop in Europe), which can be explained by the fact that the country didn’t experience a recession while the rest of the world was going through a housing crisis. France and Canada saw decreases in the share of renters too, by 6% and 4%, respectively, while South Korea, The Netherlands, Italy and Japan by less than 2%.
Countries with Continuous Growth in Renter Population
The UK, USA, New Zealand and Finland’s renter population expanded every year from 2010 to 2015, but at different rates. For example, the increase in the share of renters in the UK (22%) was bigger than that in the other three countries combined.
Countries Where More than 40% of the Population Are Renters
- Switzerland 56.6% renters: The share of renting households in Switzerland grew by 1.8%, while the country population was down by 0.33%. As per capita GDP soared by more than 18%, housing prices followed suit increasing by 24.3%, while rent prices were up by a moderate 4.5%.
- Hong Kong 49% renters: Similar to Switzerland, the country’s population increased by a mere 0.81% between 2010 and 2015, while the share of renting households expanded by about 5%. Hong Kong had a 20% GDP boost during the same time period.
- Germany 48.1% renters: Germany’ s population shrank by 1.81%. The country’s policy is immigration-friendly and newcomers tend to be renters, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that the proportion of renting households is high.
- South Korea 44.8% renters: The share of people who rent dropped by almost 2% in South Korea, as the average income saw an upward change of 8% between 2010 and 2015.
- Austria 44.3% renters: Austria had a slight drop in population, while the share of renters rose by close to 4%. Housing costs here became considerably more expensive: house prices rose by 16% and rent prices by 20%.
In countries where mortgages are hard to come by, properties are expensive and laws are favorable to renters, people rent more. There were no spectacular changes among the top 5 countries with the highest percentage of renters. Nonetheless, in most countries around the world, the majority of people still prefer to own the home they live in.
Countries With a Culture of Property Ownership
As we analyze and compare this data, an interesting pattern is taking shape: the more developed the country, the more people tend to rent, and vice-versa. This is most obvious in Europe, where formerly-communist countries are incurable, stubborn homeowners. It is first and foremost a cultural thing, but laws and regulations in certain ex-communist countries can make renting a nightmare too.
While in Western and Central European countries, such as Switzerland and Germany, around half of the households were renting in 2015, in the Czech Republic only 2 out of 10 households were choosing to do so. In Russia and Slovakia the share of renters is even lower, only 1 out of 10 households didn’t own their home in 2015. Owning property is the holy grail of the Eastern European society, a much-coveted and highly-valued right that was once taken away. Long story short, the further East you go in Europe the more people own and the further West you are the more people rent, more or less. Zoom in on the map below to see a few more examples.
To expand to other parts of the world, we’ve compiled an interactive map with the most current renter data in over 100 countries around the world:
This analysis was performed by RENTCafé, a nationwide apartment search website that enables renters to easily find apartments and houses for rent throughout the United States. To compile this report, RENTCafé’s research team analyzed historical homeownership data in 30 countries listed on U.N.’s Human Development Index with a very high index, excluding countries with very low populations, and including only countries where housing statistics were available for the time period 2010-2015.
The share of renters means the percentage of renter-occupied housing units (households) out of the total housing units in a country. For the purpose of this study, the percentage of renter-occupied households (or share of renters) was obtained by calculating the difference between total households and owner-occupied households.
Tenure data sources: US Census Bureau, the Eurostat database, the Statistics Bureau of Japan, the National South Korean Bureau of Statistics, the Central Bureau of Statistics Israel, Statistics New Zealand, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Census and Statistics Department Hong Kong, Department of Statistics Singapore, Trading Economics and The United Nations Statistics Division. GDP data source: World Bank Group. Population data source: The United Nations Statistics Division. Income data source: World Wealth & Income Database. House and rent price data source: OECD databases.
The interactive world map displays data from 2015 or the latest data available for each country from the following sources: Eurostat, US Census Bureau, Statistics Bureau of Japan, National South Korean Bureau of Statistics, Department of Statistics Singapore, Census and Statistics Department Hong Kong, Central Bureau of Statistics Israel, Statistics New Zealand, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Center for Distributive, Labor and Social Studies, Global Shelter Cluster, Central Bank of Iran, BRICS, The United Nations Statistics Division.
Fair use and redistribution
We encourage you and freely grant you permission to reuse, host, or repost the images in this article. When doing so, we only ask that you kindly attribute the authors by linking to RENTCafe.com or this page, so that your readers can learn more about this project, the research behind it and its methodology.