The profile of first-time homebuyers in the U.S. is changing, according to researchers at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.
In a paper titled “The Shifting Profile of First-Time Homebuyers: 1997-2017,” researchers found that in the past 20 years, there has been a significant shift from married households to never-married households among first-time homebuyers. To examine trends in this group of homebuyers, researchers used the 1997-2017 American Housing Surveys.
The 2017 AHS suggests that first-time homebuyers purchased approximately 1.8 million housing units in 2016, making up approximately 1.5% of U.S. households that year.
“While discussions of first-time home buying often tie homeownership entry to life-stage changes like marriage and the birth of a first child, a growing share of first-time homebuyers do not fit this profile,” the paper stated.
According to AHS, 35% of first-time homebuyers in 2017 had never been married, compared to 23% twenty years prior. Married homebuyers made up 61% of the first-time homebuyers in 1997 and declined to 46% in 2013. But, that percentage increased over the next three years, hitting 52% in 2017.
“These trends suggest that there may be a fundamental shift in the way that young households are approaching first-time home purchases, such as an increased willingness to purchase homes individually or with unmarried partners,” the paper explained.
“Because the trends in marital status are not mirrored by similarly-large shifts in the age distribution of first-time homebuyers, it is unlikely that they are driven by demographic shifts like decisions to delay marriage and childbirth until later ages,” the paper continued.