The National Association of Realtors (NAR) keeps historical data on many aspects of homeownership. One of the data points that has changed dramatically is the median tenure of a family in a home, meaning how long a family stays in a home prior to moving. As the graph below shows, for over twenty years (1985-2008), the median tenure averaged exactly six years. However, since 2008, that average is almost nine years – an increase of almost 50%.
Why the dramatic increase?
The reasons for this change are plentiful!
The fall in home prices during the housing crisis left many homeowners in a negative equity situation (where their home was worth less than the mortgage on the property). Also, the uncertainty of the economy made some homeowners much more fiscally conservative about making a move.
With home prices rising dramatically over the last several years, 93.9% of homes with a mortgage are now in a positive equity situation with 78.8% of them having at least 20% equity, according to CoreLogic.
With the economy coming back and wages starting to increase, many homeowners are in a much better financial situation than they were just a few short years ago.
“Sellers 36 years and younger stayed in their home for six years…”
These homeowners who are either looking for more space to accommodate their growing families or for better school districts are more likely to move more often (compared to 10 years for typical sellers in 2016). The homeownership rate among young families, however, has still not caught up to previous generations, resulting in the jump we have seen in median tenure!
What does this mean for housing?
Many believe that a large portion of homeowners are not in a house that is best for their current family circumstance; They could be baby boomers living in an empty, four-bedroom colonial, or a millennial couple living in a one-bedroom condo planning to start a family.
These homeowners are ready to make a move, and since a lack of housing inventory is still a major challenge in the current housing market, this could be great news.
Almost every real estate conversation revolves around the continuous rise in house values over the last four years. Some have even mentioned a concern about another possible bubble forming. However, the recent increase in prices can be attributed to a very simple principle: supply and demand.
Demand for single-family housing has continued to increase as the economy slowly moves forward. Recent surveys have shown that over 80% of each generation still believes that homeownership is a part of the American Dream. And a recent Gallup survey showed that Americans believe that real estate is the best long-term investment.
Over the last several years, many homeowners were unable to put their homes on the market for an assortment of reasons (family finances, no or limited equity in the home). There has been a pent-up supply of sellers who have wanted to move but couldn’t. Below is a graph depicting the number of years families have historically stayed in a home. We can see there is pent-up seller demand.
As the economy improves and more families reach the point of significant equity (20%), we will see these homes come to market. As supply then matches demand, the acceleration of home price increases will begin to slow.
If you are one of the families that have been chained to your current home over the last 5-7 years, now may be the time to break free and find the home of your dreams.