What 2022’s housing trends say about us and where we’re headed | Heather MacDonald
Where we live has always been about more than just the housing market
The housing market has historically been viewed as a reflection of the general health of a nation. Widespread patterns, historic data, and noteworthy stats shed a helpful light into who we are and how we live. This has never been more true than during the history-making market post-COVID. The housing trends in 2022 paint a compelling picture.
Inequalities on Display
The first interesting trend would be to simply define who became a homeowner at all in 2022. Income inequality is fully on display in the following stats:
- The age of a first-time homebuyer rose to an all-time high of 36. Student loan debt, credit card debt, car loans, inflation, and outrageous rental costs have delayed homeownership longer than we have ever seen.
- First-time homebuyers typically make up about 40% of the market with that number hitting as high as 50% around 2010 when the First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit went into effect. That number has plummeted to an all-time low of just 26%.
- The most common place for a first-time homebuyer to live prior to purchasing a home is a family member’s home. Soaring rental prices have forced college grads, older children, and young families to live at home or face an untenable cost of living. This group accounts for 26% of all first-time homebuyers, an all-time high.
- A disproportionate amount of barriers continue to exist in communities of color. The impact of decades of racist policies are still evident in the stats. 88% of all buyers were White, highlighting the perpetual effects burdening communities of color. The lack of access to affordable housing, homeownership, and equity are among the main factors for a poverty of generational wealth.
- Fully less than a quarter of buyers cite the desire to own a home as a motivating factor for them. The American Dream used to be synonymous with homeownership, but the harsh realities of inequality, stagnant wages, and less generational wealth than ever before have most homebuyers focusing solely on the practical benefits of homeownership.
A New Generation
Amongst the statistics, a few interesting figures emerge. Notably the rise in single female homebuyers.
While the majority of homebuyers continue to be married couples (61%), the next most likely profile of a buyer is a single female. At 17%, single females outpace their single male counterparts (at 9%) nearly two to one. In fact, single women in their 30s are becoming an important, distinct demographic not only in real estate but also in politics, home improvement, and retail.
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The number of unmarried couples buying a home was at an all-time high at 10%, while about 14% of homebuyers purchased a multi-generational home. Both trends highlight the practical response to the sky-high cost of living that has become the norm.
Unmarried couples find dual incomes necessary to survive, and the “sandwich generation” comprised of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who are caring for children and aging parents simultaneously, can only function in that unsupported role if everyone is under the same roof.
The Rise of Zoom Towns
In Pennsylvania, the Shapiro administration plans to transition around 2,300 state employees from full or partial work-from-home schedules to a minimum of three days in the office. Typically, the merits of working-from-home are presented through stats on productivity or worker happiness, and while important, a more fundamental issue exists.
The distance buyers moved in 2022 was at an all-time high. Rather than purchasing their next home within 10-15 miles of their current home, buyers fled the city centers and suburbs moving a median of 50 miles away.
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We weren’t even out of quarantine before leaders, business owners, and CEOs were promising to make remote work permanent, and workers made good on that promise by de-prioritizing commute times for the first time ever.
The reality for many is that remote work has become a way of life and will continue to be a top priority for many workers not only because of preference but also because of proximity.
Small towns and rural areas saw the largest share of home buyers ever. So-called “zoom towns,” locations where migrating workers put down roots in the past few years, are blossoming with newfound populations and purpose.
We have changed the way we live, and the data bears that out. Where we live has always been about more than just the housing market.
It becomes an unspoken blueprint of what we care about and how we react to outside forces. In the last year, we moved towards open space, we moved in together to weather the current economic storm, and we reevaluated what and where we call home.
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