As the biggest cohort of homebuyers, millennials are exercising influence in the market in unprecedented ways. They are at the center of demand for housing—built-up after many moved back in with their parents, and now releasing slowly, but surely, as the crash fades from memory. In fact, the majority of Power Brokers in RISMedia’s 2018 Power Broker Report & Survey believe millennials are their most auspicious opportunity this year.
There are factors, however, that could keep a lid on the millennial move-out. According to Freddie Mac’s monthly Insight, recently released, the amount of households led by young adults is down 3.6 percent from 2000—attributable to costly homes and stagnating wages. From 2000 to 2016, earnings grew just 1 percent for young adults; by comparison, home prices grew 29 percent. According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), in March, home prices were up 5.9 percent year-over-year.
Analysts at Freddie believe the gap is too great to ignore. They posit that affordability constraints are the cause of more than one-quarter of the decline in the formation of households by young adults—and If the climb in costs persists, there could be dire implications for the market. For millennials, even an incremental rise could stall them: A 1 percent hike in home prices cuts the likelihood millennials will head up their own household by 5 percent. (A 1 percent increase in income, inversely, ups the odds 3 percent.)
“Housing costs are a major factor holding back young adult household formations,” says Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist at Freddie Mac. “Our research results indicate that 28 percent of the decline in young adult household formation is due to housing costs. If housing costs continue to rise, we could see about 600,000 fewer households over the next decade.”
Another factor? Timing. The catalysts (conventionally) for forming a household—aging, children and/or marriage—are not occurring as quickly. Comparing young adults in 2000 and 2016, data on fertility and marriages is lower now than it was—and according to realtor.com® research, “family needs” are the biggest millennial motivator for a purchase.
If conditions improve for millennials, Freddie forecasts an additional 19-21 million households by 2025. The alternative, the analysts believe, could have critical consequences for homeownership, investing and overall wealth.