Are Builders Ignoring Single-Person Households?

October 22, 2019

Single-person households are a growing demographic in real estate, account for 28% of all households—or 35 million homes in the U.S. But the current housing stock is inadequate to meet their needs, a new article at BUILDER reports.

In 2017, more than 120 million Americans—48% of adults 18 and older—were divorced, widowed, or had never been married, U.S. Census Bureau data shows. That’s up from 39 million, or 29% of adults, in 1970.

Married couples have traditionally dominated the housing market. They accounted for 63% of recent buyers, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. But a growing number of single-person households can’t be ignored, economists say.

Their numbers are likely to grow bigger: About 41.4 million single-person households are expected by 2030, predicts Deloitte, a professional services firm. Single-person households are predicted to outpace other household sizes over the next 15 years, according to Euromonitor International’s “Top 10 Global Consumer Trends 2019” report.

Single females tend to outpace single men in homeownership: Single females comprised 18% of home buyers in 2018, and single men made up 9%. “Single females tend to really value homeownership, not just as a financial investment but also as a place where they can live,” Jessica Lautz, NAR director of demographics and behavioral insights, told Bankrate.

However, author David Friedlander, who recently wrote an article for Medium called “Housing for Singles Is Sadder Than an Evening of Tinder Swiping,” notes that studios make up less than 1% of the total housing stock, and one-bedrooms comprise 11%. Friedlander has made an urgent call for home builders to pay attention and meet the needs of single buyers, whether that’s catering to single millennials first branching out on their own or retired baby boomers.

“We’d all be foolish not to realize that there seems to be a market developing,” Mike Connor, CEO of Vermont-based Connor Mill Built Homes, told BUILDER. “We’re seeing a very high rise in first-time single millennials who are coming directly from their parents’ house—not even renting. It’s a shift from years past, when the typical pathway was college, apartment, marriage, buy a home as a couple. We hadn’t spotted this as a trend.”