Rentals hold key to real estate market's future

People in Real Estate: Cheryl Russell

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Cheryl Russell has one word for anyone who’s adrift and looking for any direction in real estate, so long as it’s up: rentals.

The rental market is "a possible savior for many segments of the housing market," said Russell, a demographer who specializes in studying Americans’ housing and spending habits.

To say that Russell isn’t particularly encouraging about the near-term prospects for the housing industry would be an understatement.

Having crunched mountains of census and other data to glean the habits and attitudes of groups of actual and potential homeowners, from 20-somethings to retirees, she finds them generally scared off or stuck, and predicted they’ll stay that way for two decades to come.

Russell’s company, New Strategist Publications, recently published its third edition of "Americans and Their Homes: Demographics of Homeownership." It’s not the stuff that you’re likely to lose yourself in at the beach — unless, of course, you’re another demographer. It’s a pricey ($90 to $270, depending on the version) festival of numbers and spreadsheets, delving into such arcania as how many black householders are 45 or older, or how many people use oil to heat their homes.