There is nothing wrong with being a long-term or permanent renter. Don’t believe the hype. One of the reasons we are in the midst of a housing depression is the misguided belief that owning a home is always a good investment and that home ownership is key to experiencing the “American Dream.” Both are false. Owning a home is not a good investment if you cannot afford to maintain it or if you are not the home-owning type. Owning a home does not necessarily create a better quality of life...Read the whole thing.
Renters are people who want a certain lifestyle. They prefer the freedom of mobility, free from the hassle and worry of house maintenance, etc. For older generations, home ownership made more sense because of the romantic vision of “settling down” in marriage, buying a house with a fence, raising a family, and remaining in the same house for 30 years before retiring to a place that one really enjoys. For younger generations-most of whom will have four to six career changes during their lifetime-renting long-term makes more sense in many cases...
People who are truly wealthy are not so because of home value appreciation. There are other areas to invest money and people should be free from the cultural mythology that harasses them to buy a house. Leave renters alone, because they are not throwing their money away as the myth portrays.
This is something I've been saying for years -- long before the effects of the housing bubble were felt. Renting gives you much more flexibility in terms of where to live, ability to move, and increases the amount of disposable income you have for saving, spending, and/or giving. Renting also tends to free up your time as you are able to live closer to work than you would if you bought a home. I've rarely lived more than 15-minutes from work or school and often much closer than that. Renting has also freed up more time with the lack of maintenance I've had to put into keeping up my place. This has given me extra time to read, do volunteer work, and spend time with friends.
I doubt I would have traveled to half the places I've visited if I had owned a home and likely would never have come back to school for my PhD. If I had owned a home, moving back from Florida to Virginia would have been much more of an ordeal than leaving my 1-bedroom apartment.
Renting forces me to keep the amount of stuff I own to a minimum; gives me flexibility of location, expense, and lifestyle; and more money and time to spend on other pursuits. If/when I have a family, my attitude may change but until then I am quite content living as a renter. Fortunately, I am not under the illusion that I am "just throwing my money away." I know I'm getting quite a deal.
Here is a good article from SmartMoney on how renting helps you get richer.
Read many of my other posts on the virtues of renting here.
Apartment Therapy has some good tips on small space living here, here, and here.