Gen Xers’ Adult Children Influence Their Buying Decisions; Younger Millennials Become Buying Force

Real Estate In-Depth | April 2019

WASHINGTON—One in six Gen Xers purchased a multi-generational home, overtaking younger boomers as the generation most likely to do so; with 52% of those Gen X buyers indicating that they did so because their adult children have either moved back or never left home.

These and other interesting buying trends were part of the National Association of Realtors®’ 2019 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study released on April 1. The study evaluates the generational differences of recent homebuyers and sellers. The report also found that older millennials who bought a multi-generational home, at 9%, were most likely to do so in order to take care of aging parents (33%), or to spend more time with those parents (30%).

“The high cost of rent and lack of affordable housing inventory is sending adult children back to their parents’ homes either out of necessity or an attempt to save money,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “While these multi-generational homes may not be what a majority of Americans expect out of homeownership, this method allows younger potential buyers the opportunity to gain their financial footing and transition into homeownership. In fact, younger millennials are the most likely to move directly out of their parents’ homes into homeownership, circumventing renting altogether.”

Millennials as a whole accounted for 37% of all buyers, making them the most active generation of buyers for the sixth consecutive year. 2019 is the first year the report separated younger and older millennials, accounting for 11% and 26% of buyers respectively. This separation was deemed necessary as younger millennials now account for a larger buying share than the silent generation (7%). Gen X buyers were the second largest group of buyers (24%), followed by younger boomers (18%) and older boomers (14%).

Dividing millennials into younger and older cohorts highlights the disparities between the two age groups, and paints a picture of older millennials that is much closer to Gen Xers and younger boomers. Older millennials have a median household income of $101,200 and purchase homes with a median price of $274,000, comparable to Gen Xers ($111,100 income, $277,800 median home price) and younger boomers ($102,300, $251,100 respectively).

Yun says this is to be expected as millennials continue to age and advance through various stages of their lives and careers. “Older millennials are now entering the prime earning stages of their careers, and the size and costs of homes they purchase reflect this. Their choices are falling more in line with their Gen X and boomer counterparts,” he said.

Younger millennials, meanwhile, are purchasing the least expensive homes and smallest homes ($177,000 and 1,600 square feet), meaning they face the greatest challenge in finding affordable inventory. They also report a median household income of $71,200.

Downsizing to a smaller home is not currently common among any of the generations. Sellers over the age of 54 only downsize by a median of 100 to 200 square feet. Gen Xers and boomers who may have been interested in downsizing could have been hindered by a lack of smaller inventory; or may have been impeded by the increase in multi-generational living these generations are reporting to accommodate the needs of adult children and aging parents.

Student Loan Debt Remains a Barrier to Homeownership

Older millennials and Gen Xers carry the most substantial amount of student loan debt, with a median amount of $30,000. Younger millennials rank second with a median amount of $21,000. However, younger millennials are the most likely to have student loan debt, with 47% indicating that they carry some amount of student loan debt, while only 42% of older millennials and 27% of Gen Xers report student loan debt. Younger and older boomers also report carrying student loan debt but at a lower amount, 10 and 4% respectively.

Younger millennials were the most likely to say saving for a down payment was the most difficult task in the home process, 26%. Among them, student loan debt delayed their home purchase (61%); however, they indicated that this particular debt only delayed them a median of two years— the shortest delay of all generations. “These buyers are the most likely to receive some or all of their down payment as a gift from family or friends, usually their parents,” says Yun. “This could explain why their debt is not holding them back from homeownership as long as other generations, who are less likely to receive down payment assistance.”

Homebuyer Household Compositions Shift From Married Couples

While the majority of buyers in all age groups are married couples, single buyers and unmarried couples continue to make a mark on the real estate market. Single females accounted for 25% of all younger boomers and silent generation buyers. “Many of these buyers are entering the market after a divorce, which is the case for younger boomers, or the death of a spouse in the case of those in the silent generation,” says Yun.

While only 8% of buyers as a whole were unmarried couples, they accounted for 20% of all younger millennial homebuyers, compared to 13% for older millennials, 8% for Gen Xers, 4% for both younger and older boomers and 3% for the silent generation.

A Majority of Buyers and Sellers Work With a Real Estate Agent, Regardless of Age

Buyers and sellers across all age groups continue to seek the assistance of a real estate agent when buying and selling a home. At 92%, younger millennials were the most likely to purchase a home through a real estate agent. “Help understanding the buying process” was cited as the top benefit younger millennials said their agent provided (87%). Across all generations, 87% of all buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent.

Gen Xers were the largest group of sellers, accounting for one-quarter of all sellers. They were also most likely to have wanted to sell earlier but could not because their home was worth less than their mortgage; 15% reported they were in this situation. Ninety-two percent of all sellers used an agent during their home selling process, with older millennials and Gen Xers were most likely to have used a full-service agent who offered a broad range of services and managed most aspects of the sale.

“Consumers of all ages understand that working with a Realtor is the advantage they need to compete in this fast-moving, constantly evolving real estate market,” said NAR President John Smaby, a second-generation Realtor from Edina, MN and broker at Edina Realty. “Buying a home is an exciting, complicated and sometimes daunting process, and Realtors have the knowledge and expertise to guide buyers and sellers through this experience.”

NAR mailed a 129-question survey in July 2018 using a random sample weighted to be representative of sales on a geographic basis to 155,250 recent homebuyers. Respondents had the option to fill out the survey via hard copy or online; the online survey was available in English and Spanish. A total of 7,191 responses were received from primary residence buyers. After accounting for undeliverable questionnaires, the survey had an adjusted response rate of 5.6%. The sample at the 95% confidence level has a confidence interval of plus-or-minus 1.10%.

The recent homebuyers had to have purchased a home between July 2017 and June 2018. All information is characteristic of the 12-month period ending in June 2018 with the exception of income data, which are for 2017.

Survey generational breakdowns: Younger millennials (ages 21-28); Older millennials (ages 29-38); Gen Xers (ages 39-53); Younger boomers (ages 54-63); Older boomers (ages 64-72); and the silent generation (ages 73-93).