Housing has become cheaper, but tighter bank lending conditions are offsetting the ability for many buyers to take advantage of the good conditions, according to Realtor Mag, the official online magazine of the National Association of Realtors.
Investors with cash, however, are stepping up and seeing attractive rates of return when they rent properties, the November article reported.
"Rents rose at a better than 3 percent annualized rate in the third quarter of 2011, government data show, and private data sources imply even faster rent growth," it stated.
Betty Simcock, a broker with Windermere Property Management in Walla Walla, said in an email the trend is being felt locally.
"This is a national report, but we do sense a shift in rental rates and strong rental demand here in the Valley," she said.
The article said rent growth is expected to continue, citing an increase in renters due to rising number of young adults over the next 20 years, a high number of owners of foreclosed homes who can't buy in the near term, and fewer apartments being built. If rent gains continue at near 3.5 percent, rents could double in 20 years -- even sooner if rent gains accelerate.
The report also had upbeat news for home owners who live in their homes as well as those who rent properties.
"With the bubble clearly gone, the future home price path should follow the future rent growth path," Realtor Mag said. "... That means home prices could also double in 14 to 20 years, though it is unclear when home prices will begin to catch up with rents. But long-term investors buying today are sure to catch some, if not most, of the upward ride."