The past year’s frenzied housing demand likely has more to do with the demographic makeup of America than a one-time, pandemic-driven boom, a new Zillow analysis of the age, sex, race and income of home-buyers over a decade reveals.
Millennials and Baby Boomers – two of the biggest generations in U.S. history – are in the market for homes in a big way. And it appears Boomers hold the upper hand, for now.
Even as Millennials are the biggest players in the U.S. housing market, buyers are trending older. The median age of a recent buyer – one who bought a home in the past year – was 44 in 2019, up from 40 in 2009.
That’s largely because Baby Boomers, who make up a big share of the population, are also more active in the housing market than those their age 10 years ago.
The share of recent buyers who are 60 years and older grew 47 percent from 2009 to 2019. Over the same period, the share of recent buyers ages 18–39 fell 13 percent.
This means that Millennials, already grappling with skyrocketing housing costs from pre-pandemic housing trends and student debt that make saving for a down payment a steep hill to climb, also generally have more competition from their parents’ and grandparents’ generations than their predecessors did.
That dynamic is likely one reason the share of buyers who were buying their first home has trended down from 46 percent in 2018 to 37 percent in 2021.
Because Boomers are more likely to be homeowners who can use the proceeds from the sale of their current home toward their next one, they have a built-in advantage in a bidding war against younger buyers, who are often buying their first home.
Younger buyers are seeing more luck in less expensive areas, perhaps after being priced out of metros where homes are more expensive. Buyers skewed younger in markets such as Buffalo (57 percent of recent buyers ages 18–39) and Salt Lake City (56 percent).