Thursday, June 9, 2016

Housing: Part 159 - The mystery of falling homeownership

The Atlanta Fed has a post up about the mysterious decline in homeownership.  I'm not sure what is so mysterious about it.  From the post:
The ideas have been widely debated, and yet no single factor seems to neatly explain the declining share of the millennial population opting to buy a house....To the extent that these factors are true, they may be affecting the decisions of other generations as well.
It is pretty clear that one single factor does neatly explain 90% of the declining share of homebuyers, of any generation.  The post even links to another Atlanta Fed post with this graph:

The certainty about supposedly shifting credit standards during the boom is so strong and universal that it seems that most people simply cannot accept the extreme shift in credit access that clearly happened during the bust.  This is all we need to explain falling homeownership.  The rest is rounding errors.

Chart 1: Homeownership Rates by AgeNext is the graph from the first link of age group ownership.  Notice a pattern here.  It has been about a decade since the housing market collapsed, so during that time, each age group has basically moved up one category.  And, notice how each age group today has roughly the ownership rate of the lower age group a decade ago.  In other words, 55-64 year olds today have an ownership rate similar to 45-54 year olds a decade ago.

Normally, ownership would rise over time for each cohort, but the cohorts are all frozen in time.  The only one that doesn't match is the 35-44 year olds.  But, it isn't a pure comparison, because the "less than 35" category contains more than 10 years worth of an age range, and the 25-35 subset is the stronger subset, so the 25-35 group was probably well above 50% in 2004.

Now, this isn't pristine.  There are clearly some 1st time homebuyers.  But, they are basically at replacement rates for each age group.  The linked post notes that the 35-44 group has actually declined more than the 35 and under group.  That is because that is the group where most new homeownership would happen if we had a functional housing regime, which we have not since 2007.

This has little to do with preferences.  Much as default rates were 90% about when homes were purchased and had little to do with terms, buyer qualifications, etc., this is about timing too.  Whether your generation has high homeownership rates or not is mostly a matter of whether most of your generation had purchased a home before the country lost its marbles.

Similarly, there are countless stories about how millennials are leaving the cities for the suburbs, as if there are hundreds of thousands of new units being built in the cities to greet them.  Our cities have retreated back to North, Wallis, and Weingast limited access order regimes, but now instead of being ruled by elites negotiating rents, our democratized cities have made everyone an elite.  So, negotiations are interminable.

3 comments:

  1. I just remembered there is also a one-time capital gains tax exemption on home sales for people over age 55

    ReplyDelete