It’s not just millennials who aren’t buying homes; it’s (almost) everyone

Chart: Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
Chart: Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

You may have heard some buzz recently about first-time home buyers, with millennials sitting on the sidelines instead of jumping into the housing market.

Well, it’s not just them. Basically, Americans in every age group under 65 are showing historic reluctance to own homes, according to an email from Ellyn Terry, an economic policy analysis specialist at theFederal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

First-timers represent only 30% of the market, when they should be more like 40% — historically, the long-term average, according to the National Association of Realtors.

(This story first appeared on Credit.com. Read it there.)

And just last week, Credit.com reported on a survey that found young buyers want to skip the starter home and wait for their dream home.

Why? Terry speculates that high debt, high cost, as well as shifts to a more urban society and shifts away from the desire to own homes are just a few of the reasons. But those factors are hardly limited to young people.

“To the extent that these factors are true [for Millennials], they may be affecting the decisions of other generations as well,” she wrote in a recent post titled “It’s Not Just Millennials Who Aren’t Buying Homes.”

First off, homeownership rates for all Americans — young or old — have fallen since the housing peak of 2005. That makes sense; most weren’t spared by the housing bust.

It’s surprising to learn that homeownership rates fell even harder among older Americans, however.

“Homeownership among young Generation Xers has fallen by a bit more than the millennial generation since the housing peak — declining 11 percentage points since 2005 compared with a decline of 9 percentage points for those under 35-years-old,” Terry wrote.

Historical context is critical, however. Homeownership rates in the last decade were artificially elevated because of the housing bubble, so it’s worth comparing them to levels before the boom. By some measures, the overall homeownership rate — at around 64% now — stands at roughly what it was in the mid-1980s and ’90s, before the factors that started the boom were set in place.

That hardly tells the whole story, however. Ownership rates for every under-65 age group — under 35, 35-44, 45-54, and 55-64 — have fallen to below even their mid-1980s rate. So why is the overall rate flat?

You can see what’s going on in the chart below — the rate of older owners is higher than the mid-80s, while the rate among all other groups is lower.

In a different study, financial adviser Joshua Brown cites Bank of America research claiming the effect is even more dramatic for much older Americans. Among the 75+ crowd, homeownership rates soared from 73.6% in 1994 to 78.6% in 2014 — a span during which the rate fell for everyone between the ages of 25 and 65.

In some ways, this makes sense: Americans are living longer, and staying in their own homes longer. That means a bump in the total number of older Americans, “an age group that always has higher homeownership rates,” according to Terry, is skewing the statistics. But it’s also another sign that the underlying fundamentals of America’s housing market remain shaky.

If you’ve read this far, perhaps you’d like to support what I do. That’s easy. Sign up for my free email list, or click on an advertisement, or just share the story.




About Bob Sullivan 1297 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.