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Think Millennials are stalling the housing market?

Think again. They have nothing on reluctant thirty-somethings

January 27, 2014
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Much of America is probably tired of articles about generational battles. After all, life is an individual experience, and in every age category there is always someone willing to buy a home or sell a home.

But from an economic standpoint, today’s environment makes it almost essential for real estate agents and lenders to know what’s happening within each individual age cohort. Household formation is very personal and humans generally follow predictable patterns, such as first job, first house and then the launch of a family.

For years now, everyone has been blaming the Millennials for stalling the housing recovery because of their reluctance or inability to purchase a home, but it may be the cohort right before them – the generational cuspers, or those born from 1978 to 1982 – who started this trend. This age group now has the lowest homeownership rate in decades. They're best defined as not quite Gen-X, not really Millennials, but stuck somewhere in between.

Real Estate Economy Watch recently reported on a study conducted by Chris Porter, a senior manager with John Burns Real Estate Consulting. Porter discovered that Americans within the 30-to-34 age range now have the lowest homeownership rate of any similarly aged group that came before them. 

Back in 2012, this same group had a 47.9% homeownership rate, which is 6.5 percentage points lower than what those five years older had achieved at the same point.

Oddly enough, it seems this crowd bought homes at a faster clip when they were younger, only to get caught in the subprime crunch. The same study shows this group recorded the highest homeownership rate for those in the 25-to-29 age category back in 2007, before the market crash.

But if there’s one strong takeaway from the report, it’s this: selling entry-level homes may be a challenge today, but just think of all the pent-up demand that could eventually drive home sales.

And some of these thirty-somethings and twenty-somethings may have a reason to escape into homeownership in the near future.

For starters, rental prices keep going up, according to new data from TransUnion, which shows average rental prices rose nearly 4% from $1,034 in the third quarter of 2012 to $1,072 in the third quarter of 2013.

The credit risk of rental applicants also is improving, which suggests consumers are back to making enough money to cover their payments and are able to function in the rental market at a higher success rate.

Long term this is a positive trend for housing if these renters eventually make the transition to homeownership.

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