I know this isn’t great news if you are not a homeowner, but this might be the worst time to be renting in the last 40 years.

The average monthly cost of rent nationwide takes up over 35% percent of American income, the highest cost burden recorded since the late 1970s.

As a matter of fact, the number of renters dedicating at least half of their income toward housing hit a record high of 11 million people in 2014, according to the annual State of the Nation’s Housing Report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

2015 and 2016 saw the biggest surge in new renters in history, according to the report, bringing the number of people living in rental units to around 110 million people — or about 36% of households.

Unfortunately, there’s still more bad news. Apartment vacancy rates have dropped so low that forecasters are predicting that rents could rise, on average, 4 to 6 percent this year. Interestingly, rents are rising faster than that in many metro areas even as overall inflation is running at little less than 2% annually.

The nationwide problem threatens to get worse before it gets better. Apartment builders are building more units, potentially creating supply that is beginning to crest. With that said, demand still exceeds the supply, especially for affordable housing.

The Solution

One of the great underlying opportunities here is that buying a home is considerably cheaper than renting. Renters interested in reducing expenses and collecting tax benefits should absolutely talk to a mortgage lender prior to signing that rental contract.

Mortgage underwriting guidelines have been slowly loosening and those that were denied for a mortgage last year may qualify this year.

At the very least, your mortgage lender can provide the guidance needed to make this your last year as a tenant. Whether your issue be credit score, how your income is calculated, student loan debt or other debt-to-income ratio issues, your lender can layout a roadmap for you to follow.

Here is a link for Advice for First Time Home Buyers. Read it over when you have a minute and see what’s in store!

Stick to the plan, the road-map, they provide and chances are you will be a homeowner by 2018. Your actions and commitment right now might just save you thousands every year.