Perspectives

Rent or Own, Young Adults Still Prefer Single-Family Homes

Patrick Simmons
Director, Strategic
Planning, Economic &
Strategic Research

As the housing recovery plods along, many are looking to young adults as a source of new demand that could invigorate the residential rebound. Interest in the housing behaviors of young adults is intensified by the sheer size of the Millennial generation, which by some estimates is the largest in U.S. history. In particular, much attention has focused on Millennials’ household formation and homeownership rates, which are substantially lower than for previous generations.

Another key dimension of Millennial housing consumption is the types of homes that they occupy. A growing body of research challenges popular perception by showing that Millennials, like their predecessors, have a strong preference for single-family homes. This new edition of Housing Insights from Fannie Mae's Economic & Strategic Research Group extends the existing research by examining the rates at which young households occupy single-family homes across the rental, owner-occupied, and recent homebuyer markets and by comparing the structure-type choices of Millennials today with those of young adults prior to the housing crash.

The analysis reveals that the likelihood of a Millennial household occupying a single-family home today is down somewhat from that of young adults at the peak of the housing boom, but is no different than it was for young households in 2000, prior to the boom. Moreover, when structure-type occupancy rates are disaggregated by housing tenure (renting vs. owner occupancy), Millennial homeowners aged 25-34 today are found to be more likely to reside in a single-family home than their predecessors, and Millennial renters are roughly as likely to occupy a single-family home as the preceding generation. Furthermore, 90 percent of 25-34 year-old Millennials who purchased a home recently chose a single-family residence, surpassing the rate at which young adults bought single-family homes at the peak of the housing boom.

A sharp rebound in multifamily construction, but only modest gains in single-family homebuilding, have characterized the housing market recovery. However, Millennials’ desire for single-family homes is not only substantial, but should strengthen in coming years as more members of the cohort age into their thirties, prime years for first-time homeownership. Given the massive size of the Millennial generation, this life-cycle progression should support continued recovery in housing construction and bodes well for a stronger rebound in the single-family sector in the second half of the decade.

To learn more about these findings, read our latest Housing Insights.

Patrick Simmons
Director, Strategic Planning
Economic & Strategic Research Group

July 1, 2015

The author thanks Orawin Velz and Mark Palim for valuable comments in the creation of this commentary. Of course, all errors and omissions remain the responsibility of the author.

Opinions, analyses, estimates, forecasts and other views of Fannie Mae's Economic & Strategic Research (ESR) Group included in these materials should not be construed as indicating Fannie Mae's business prospects or expected results, are based on a number of assumptions, and are subject to change without notice. How this information affects Fannie Mae will depend on many factors. Although the ESR Group bases its opinions, analyses, estimates, forecasts and other views on information it considers reliable, it does not guarantee that the information provided in these materials is accurate, current or suitable for any particular purpose. Changes in the assumptions or the information underlying these views could produce materially different results. The analyses, opinions, estimates, forecasts and other views published by the ESR Group represent the views of that group as of the date indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of Fannie Mae or its management.