Why shift among 30-somethings worries builders
Here's something else Russell points out: The median age of homeowners in new homes (a structure built in the past four years) is 40. That compares to the median age of 52 for all homeowners. In fact, the under-40 age group is half of all owners of new homes, which is why a dampening enthusiasm for homeownership should be a bit frightening for builders.
"Developers and homebuilders are looking at a very different environment than they have ever experienced in their careers," said Russell. "It's going to be an environment that may be with them for the rest of their careers, so they have to learn how to function in this new, more cautious environment."
For the 30- to 34-year-old group, homeownership remains at 51.6 percent, which means more people in that age group would still prefer to own rather than rent.
Since the Census Bureau has been tracking this information starting in the early 1980s, homeownership in this age group has never fallen below 50 percent. If it does, that would be, as Russell noted, a very big deal, "because it would be very clear to everyone that this important age group is not buying homes."
Steve Bergsman is a freelance writer in Arizona and author of several books. His latest book, "After the Fall: Opportunities and Strategies for Real Estate Investing in the Coming Decade," has been ranked as a top-selling real estate investment book for the Amazon Kindle e-reader.
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Daily market update: Nov. 30, 2015