An improving economy, multiple years of strong job growth and a notable increase in home values in most markets fueled a greater share of purchases from Generation X households during the past year, according to a recently released study from the National Association of Realtors. The study—Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends, which evaluates the generational differences of recent home buyers and sellers—also found that a growing number of millennials and younger boomer buyers have children living at home; student debt is common among Gen X and boomer households; more millennials are buying outside the city; and younger generations are more likely to use a real estate agent.
Much of the spotlight in recent years has focused on challenges millennials are enduring on their journey to homeownership. According to NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yung, lost in this discussion are the numerous Gen X households that bought their first home, started a family and entered the middle part of their careers only to be struck by job losses, falling home values, and overall economic uncertainty during and after the Great Recession.
This 2017 study reveals that debt and little or no equity in their home slowed many Gen X households from buying sooner. Recent Gen X buyers delayed buying longer than millennials because of debt, were the most likely generation to have previously sold a distressed property and were the generation most likely to want to sell earlier but couldn’t because their home was worth less than their mortgage. In addition, Gen X buyers indicated they had the most student loan debt ($30,000).
“Gen X sellers’ median tenure in their previous home was 10 years, which puts many of them selling a property they bought right around the time home values were on the precipice of declining,” says Yun. “Fortunately, the much stronger job market and 41 percent cumulative rise in home prices since 2011 have helped a growing number build enough equity to finally sell and trade up to a larger home. More Gen X sellers are expected this year and are definitely needed to ease the inventory shortages in much of the country.”
The uptick in purchases from Gen X buyers this year (28 percent) was the highest since 2014 and up from 26 percent in 2016. Millennials were the largest group of recent buyers for the fourth consecutive year (34 percent), but their overall share was down slightly from a year ago (35 percent). Baby boomers were 30 percent of buyers, and the Silent Generation made up 8 percent.
Here, some additional key findings from the study:
- Younger boomers were the most likely to purchase a multigenerational home (20 percent; 16 percent in 2016), and the top reason for doing so was that children ages 18 and older either moved back home or never left (30 percent; 27 percent in 2016).
- Debt, particularly from student loans, appears to be a portion of the household budget of buyers in every generation. While millennials were the most likely to have student debt (46 percent), their typical balance ($25,000) was lower than Gen X buyers ($30,000). A combined 16 percent of younger and older boomer buyers also had student debt, with a median balance of over $10,000 for each group.
- Among the share of buyers who said saving for a down payment was the most difficult task, millennials were most likely to cite student loans as the debt that delayed saving (55 percent), followed by Gen X (29 percent) and younger boomers (9 percent).
- Similar to previous years, roughly two-thirds of millennial buyers are married. One aspect of their household that has changed is the number of children in them. In this year’s survey, 49 percent of millennial buyers had at least one child, which is up from 45 percent last year and 43 percent two years ago.
- With more kids in tow, the need for more space at an affordable price is increasingly pushing millennial buyers outside the city. Only 15 percent of millennial buyers bought in an urban area, which is down from 17 percent last year and 21 percent two years ago.
- Regardless of age, buyers and sellers continue to see real estate agents as an integral part of a real estate transaction. In this year’s survey, nearly 90 percent of respondents said they worked with a real estate agent to buy or sell a home. This kept for-sale-by-owner transactions down at their lowest share ever (8 percent). Not surprisingly, online and digital technology usage during the home search has increased in recent years. Although millennials and Gen X buyers were the most likely to go online during their search, they were also the most likely to buy their home using a real estate agent (92 percent and 88 percent, respectively). On the seller side, millennials were the most likely to use an agent (90 percent), followed closely by Gen X and younger boomer sellers (each at 89 percent).