It is no secret that San Francisco currently has the highest rent in the country with a median monthly rate of $3,500 per month. Even a tent in Mountain View will run you $899. Rentals are increasingly difficult to find and get approved. A decade ago, the rental market was not as competitive. It was cheaper to rent than own and much easier to get approved for a rental than a mortgage loan.

Ten years post-housing bubble, the market landscape has changed dramatically. Three significant trends facing the industry are the speed and efficiency in which loans are processed, the sharing economy's impact and an incoming demographic with differing desires from previous generations.

Competitive Mortgage Timelines

Mortgage companies are getting increasingly competitive. Lenders can thank machine learning and automation for the advancements. All entities involved in acquiring or refinancing a home loan have received a boost - real estate agents, mortgage lenders and title and escrow companies.

"We see loans processing at speeds we've never seen in the industry before," says Michael Cohan, founder and CEO of Unisource National Lender Services, a national lender service that uses machine learning to expedite paperwork. Banks and private companies are advertising pre-approval in as little as 30 minutes, but depending on the paperwork requested, it often takes two weeks or more.

"We'll see lenders using increasingly sophisticated automation technologies to improve efficiency by aggregating information available online to assist in auto-filling paperwork to complete more approvals in shorter timeframes," Cohan adds.

The Great Vacation Rental Debate

As the sharing economy continues to grow, 2017 will see a steady increase in the number of people who prefer to book rental properties in lieu of hotels. Privacy, cost effectiveness and cultural authenticity are a few things travelers cite for their decision to stay at an Airbnb or VRBO property instead of a hotel.

The influx of hosts renting their homes has caused many municipalities to scramble for regulations. A pending New York bill would like to eradicate Airbnb rentals entirely and hosts violating the ban would face fines up to $7,500. Airbnb says more than 40,000 hosts could be subject to fines.

"This is a bad proposal that will make it harder for thousands of New Yorkers to pay the bills," Josh Meltzer, Airbnb's head of New York public policy, said in a statement.

This year we will see this debate unfold as the rental industry becomes more difficult to navigate.

Millennials

75 million of the people in the U.S. are millennials. Their spending habits are extensively researched and their buying power is immense. In the housing market, they have experienced hardships that have made purchasing a home more difficult: mounting student loans, flat wages, and increased rent prices, making the saving process even more challenging.

However, millennials on the older end of the spectrum are 34 and as this demographic grows up they will be making more home purchases. The caveat? The process has to be on their terms.

They will also focus on smart, energy-efficient homes that allow for self-expression. Kevin Hofman, Home Depot's CMO recently agreed, saying "millennials are a lot more focused on bringing some personality into the home."

A sustainable market should be fair to both buyers and sellers and with the evolving landscape we are looking at a more balanced future. From competitive mortgages to the shared economy and a generation uber focused on convenience, the housing market has come a long way since the Great Recession.

Published on: Jan 3, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.