Childless Households Shape Real Estate Trends

September 15, 2017

The fertility rate in the U.S. has dropped to the lowest level on record, and with fewer households having children, consumers’ real estate needs are changing.

In 2015, slightly more than 70 percent of households had no children living at home, a three-percentage-point increase from 2011, according to the Census Bureau’s American Housing Survey. Broken out by age group, those ages 25 to 29 and 35 to 44 who didn’t have children in their household rose by more than 5 percent in that time period, the survey shows. The number of 30- to 34-year-olds without children increased by 4 percent.

The trend in people delaying marriage and having fewer children stands to have an impact on housing over the long term, Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS®, told The Washington Post. “The fact that we’re having smaller-size families, I think, naturally means the demand for smaller-size housing would get greater interest than before,” Yun says.

Robert Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, told the Post that, in general, home buyers tend to seek properties that offer 800 square feet of space per person in the household. About 90 percent of buyers with children younger than 18 purchased a detached single-family house, according to NAR’s 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. However, 79 percent of buyers without children also purchased such a property. Childless buyers tend to gravitate toward urban areas and prefer townhouses and condos, according to NAR’s report.

“We’re seeing this trend in many metro markets, so clearly there is a consumer desire and preference for wanting to move closer to the city,” Yun says. “That’s generally associated also with smaller-sized homes because those big McMansions that are being built are typically out in the more distant suburbs where the land is plentiful.” Further, buyers without children say friends, family, shopping, and entertainment influence their neighborhood choices the most, according to NAR.

Dietz says that while single-family housing starts are growing, they are lower than expected, partially because of household formations. Changing demographics will have an influence on what builders build, he says. “In certain markets where you’re going to have an increase in the number of childless households, that does mean that maybe townhouse construction is a greater option than, say, 3,000-square-foot single-family detached homes.”

Source: “Adults Who Opt Not to Have Kids Cause Ripple Effects in U.S. Housing Market,” The Washington Post (Sept. 14, 2017)