Demographic Trend Lines in Housing: Exciting? Yes! Here’s Why

This year the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers will hit its 35 year birthday.  A lot can happen in 35 years!  The benefit to collecting home buyer and seller data for 35 years is that demographic changes become explicitly apparent in time series exhibits. The other benefit is when data remains relatively flat, you can quickly see that as well.  The median age of home buyers has both: flat data and data changes.  Let’s take a look at what that means.

Taking the change first, the median age of repeat buyers (those who owned a home in the past and are buying another home) has increased, nearly every year, for the last 35 years. In 1981, the first year the data was collected, the median age of a repeat buyer was just 36 years old. In 2015, the median age of a repeat buyer was 53 years old.

median age

Why is that? A couple of factors could be behind the increase in age. Longer life spans have allowed more retirees to enjoy retirement, but also to move longer distances, and purchase a new home in a new area—closer to friends and family or closer to lifestyle considerations such as recreation and health facilities. Additionally, using our Profile data, we can also see that the tenure in the home is longer than in the past, so trading up to the next home is happening at a later age.

As for first-time home buyers, there has been a lot of discussion recently among analysts and the media about the typical millennial (born 1980-1995) delaying marriage, delaying child rearing, and delaying the move out of a parent’s home and into one of their own. While delays in these milestone events is happening among millennials, for those who can manage to overcome numerous hurdles (student loan debt, stagnant wage growth, affordability constraints, and tight credit to name a few) and buy a home, it’s happening at the same age as past generations. Increasingly today, when first-time buyers do buy a home they don’t feel like they have to wait until marriage. Forty-four percent of first-time buyers in 2015 were not married, compared to 32 percent in 1981. With the exception of one year’s worth of data (1993) the median age of home buyers has remained steady between 28 and 32 years of age. A boring trend line of data in that it remains relatively flat, but a meaningful one.

To follow along with this series as we discuss the findings of 35 years’ worth of Profile data, check out the hashtag #NARHBSat35 on your social channels.  NAR Research will be releasing trend line data since 1981 to celebrate 35 years of home buyer and seller demographic research.

Jessica Lautz, Managing Director, Survey Research and Communications

Jessica Lautz is the Managing Director of Survey Research and Communications. Jessica analyzes data and writes annual studies such as the Member Profile, the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, and the Commercial Member Profile.

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  1. What a great milestone. Big thanks to NAR Research for all the work you guys do. With such comprehensive baseline data, we can track key shifts in the factors affecting various local markets. We can also extrapolate some of these trends outwards to better predict future needs.

    “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.” – W. Edwards Deming