August 2021

Some surprising insights into single homeowners

YearSingle HouseholdsMarried HouseholdsTotal Households

As a rule, the housing market is always in flux. While the rise over the last 20 years in single homeownershipFootnote1 Footnote2 may or may not be news to you, it's a consequential change that's here to stay. Let's take a closer look.

In 2000, single individuals comprised 23.7% of all homeowners. By 2020, that number increased to nearly 27.0%. This 3.3% gain in market share may seem insignificant, but it's not. Of the total growth in homeownership over this period, from 70.3M (million) to 85.3M, single homeowners accounted for 42.7%, or 6.4 million of the 15 million net new homeowners!Footnote1 Footnote2

From the perspective of gender, females accounted for a 55% market share of single, owner-occupied homes in 2020, a total of 12.6M, while males, at 45%, totaled 10.4M.Footnote1 Footnote2

The impact of broad societal change

What's this shift to single homeownership based on? We've identified some intriguing factors that have helped lead to its increasing numbers, especially for first-time buyers.

  • Buying a home as an investment. In contrast to the tradition of buying a first home for starting or raising a family, many millennials are buying theirs for investment purposes. With a fixer-upper or an owner-occupied rental property, the investment-oriented buyer can also benefit from living in the home.Footnote3 This strategy is aided by the internet, which, unlike even 10 years ago, now serves as an invaluable tool for the prospective market-savvy home investor.

  • Getting married later. From 2000 to 2018, there has been an increasing delay in first marriages for both genders. For women, the median age of their first marriage rose from 25.1 to 27.8 years, a 2.7-year increase over this span. For men, the change was even greater, from 26.8 to 29.8 years, a full 3 years.Footnote4

    Likely reasons for this deferral include a focus on career development, a greater acceptance of cohabitation or living alone,Footnote4 attitudinal changes toward marriage and a decreasing influence of religion.

  • Not getting married at all. America's views on marriage are changing. According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 45% of respondents said "the growing variety of family arrangements makes no difference," and another 30% characterized the changes as a "good thing." This includes individuals who are forgoing marriage.Footnote5 Of homeowners under 35 years of age, approximately a third have never been married.Footnote6

Whether America is seen as a melting pot, a mosaic or some other mysterious amalgam, it's to your advantage to pay attention to any ongoing or developing trends. The rise of the single homeowner is just one of many American storylines that an interested and knowing real estate professional can put to good use.

1 Source: Current Population Survey, 2000 Annual Social and Economic Supplement.

2 Source: Current Population Survey, 2020 Annual Social and Economic Supplement.

3 "Can a first time home buyer buy an investment property?" Mashvisor, John Goreham, February 11, 2020.

4 "Estimated Median Age of First Marriage by Gender: 1890 to 2018," The Spruce, Sheri Stritof, December 1, 2019.

5 "As family structures change in U.S., a growing share of Americans say it makes no difference," Pew Research Center, FactTank, Deja Thomas, April 10, 2020.

6 "5 Single homeownership is on the rise — especially in these age groups," The Mortgage Reports, Aly J. Yale, March 25, 2020.

MAP3650419 | 07/2021

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