In the past, home ownership has been seen as a crucial pillar in achieving the American dream. With the growing disparity between rising real estate prices and stagnant wages, however, many people have instead turned to renting. Recently, the New York Times prepared a break-even analysis of renting a home vs. buying one. The general consensus among most major media outlets is that the average American can no longer “afford the American dream of home ownership.”
Interestingly, this trend of renting has not been limited to real estate; startups and larger corporations are also targeting the growing consumer demand for renting things from everyday items to luxury goods. For example, Brook Furniture Rental offers luxury furniture rentals for both residences and offices. This is great news for digital nomads who tend to relocate often – less furniture to pack usually also means less hassle and stress (not to mention lower moving costs). No more worrying about accidentally leaving things behind, breaking valuables during the move, or packing and unpacking. Furthermore, this also ensures that digital nomads can stay up to date with the latest home design trends without having to pay full price for a whole new set of furniture.
What applies to furniture also applies to cars. Companies like Zipcar remove the hassle and costs of buying a brand new car, maintaining it, and paying for insurance & gas. Instead, digital nomads can simply rent by the hour. Don’t like driving? Many cities have bike sharing programs that anyone can take advantage of. No need to buy a new bike that can cost as much as a car and is an easy target for thieves.
For some wealthy digital nomads, being able to rent furniture, cars, and bikes is insufficient. Luckily for them, there is now a plethora of startups that can cater to their needs. Le Tote offers personalized outfits for a monthly subscription fee. On the more expensive end, Rent the Runway leases designer dresses and accessories for the fashion savvy digital nomads. To finish off the look, strap on a Patek Philippe from Eleven James. Before sailing away on a rented yacht, do a photo-shoot with professional cameras from Lumoid. With all these options out there, many digital nomads will find renting to be the preferable choice.
Today, the people who choose renting over buying mostly do so for economic and pragmatic reasons. Perhaps not too far down the road, however, we may find ourselves in an asset-light world where renting is ubiquitous simply because it’s cool. In this hypothetical rental economy, leasing will no longer simply be another way for average workers and digital nomads to save money. Instead, anything and everything will be up for rent because owning things will have become unnecessary. I know I’ll be the first in line for a Picasso or a Matisse.