Today's homebuyers are a lot grayer than they were in past decades — and not because they're more stressed out.
A new report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows that the median age of home buyers is 45 this year, compared to 31 back in 1981. The report also shows that in 2019, the median age of home buyers hit a record high at 47, and lingered there in 2020 before dipping slightly to 45 this year.
Millennials are delaying marriage and parenthood — either by choice or because of economic constraints like outsized student debt — both of which, NAR says, are typical motivating factors for homeownership.
“The demographics of homebuyers continued to shift over the last several years,” the NAR states, “due to both tightened credit conditions and the lack of inventory on the market, which are driving up home sales prices.”
Over time, NAR's data show the ages of first-time buyers have held fairly steady. The youngest first-time-buying age ever recorded by NAR was 28 in 1991. The highest age is 33, where it sits today.
Major age swings come for repeat buyers, aka buyers who have purchased at least one home previously.
During the 2008 recession, the median first-time buying age held steady at 30, increasing by only one year to 31 in 2011. Over that same period of time, the age for repeat buyers started at 47, went up year over year and then spiked in 2011 to 53 years old. This suggests that economic downturns may have more of an effect on whether someone waits to leave their first home moreso than whether someone waits to buy their first home.
Furthermore, looking back to 1981, when NAR first started tracking homebuyers' ages, the median age for repeat buyers was 36 — the lowest ever. Now it’s 56, the highest ever.
Age isn’t the only factor that’s changed over time. The share of married couples buying homes has plummeted since 1981. according to NAR's report. Back then, 73% of homebuyers were married. Today, married couples make up just 60% of homebuyers, marking a 2 percentage-point dip from last year. The amount of single female homebuyers, however, ticked up to 19%. They comprised 18% of homebuyers last year.
Black homeownership also slightly increased, but longstanding racial disparities in homeownership persist. This year, 6% of homebuyers were Black, up from 5% last year. Meanwhile, white homebuyers make up an 82% share in 2021.
Is now a good time to buy a home?
November marks the start of what's traditionally referred to as "the slow season" in real estate — when prices typically start to fall. It's a savvy time to hunt for deals, historically speaking, so you may be wondering if now's the time to buy — or if you should wait for a few more gray hairs of your own.
The housing market throughout the pandemic has been tumultuous and hard to predict, and many of the old rules have gone out the window.
Right now, home prices are still high and competition is fierce. According to the NAR, the median purchase price of a home this year is $305,000, up from $272,500 in 2020. That’s a 12% jump over the course of one year. Additionally, everyday buyers are faced with increased competition from real-estate investors who are gobbling up homes at record levels, according to a new report from Redfin.
Indeed, real estate experts are saying that the housing market is starting to chill. But that’s with a large caveat.
“The housing market has absolutely cooled from where it was this past winter and spring,” Greg Aponte, head of data science at the real estate platform Orchard, previously told Money. “It’s not completely cool — just cooler from what it once was.”
In other words, while home prices are growing at a slower pace than before, don't expect a buyer's market any time soon.