More than 17 million people cannot afford or do not want to own a property, research has suggested.
First-time buyers are having to stretch their finances even more
Lack of cash was the predominant reason given for renting rather than owning a home, followed by a desire not to financially over-commit.
The next most common reason for shunning property ownership was people banking on house prices falling soon.
Abbey interviewed more than 1,000 people and applied its findings to the UK adult population as a whole.
"There are people who feel that they do not want to get on the property ladder, but those who do face many barriers of which the most notable is the cost of homes," said bank spokeswoman Nici Audham Gardiner.
"However, there other more surprising results, for example, job security, lack of time and finding the right mortgage," she added.
The research also found a substantial proportion of first-time buyers had to compromise on the home that they bought.
Meanwhile, a separate survey from the Mortgage Advice Bureau suggested that first-time buyers might be over-reaching themselves to get onto the property ladder.
Comparing the first nine months of 2006 with the same period last year, there had been a 25% increase in people taking out 100% mortgages.
The Mortgage Advice Bureau said that many first-time buyers had no option but to borrow big.
But the group's findings may raise alarm amongst housing market watchers.
Taking out a 100% mortgage leaves the borrower particularly exposed to negative equity if house prices were to fall.
UK house price inflation has far exceeded forecasts in 2006 but a widely anticipated interest rate rise in November may well force a slowdown.