The Share of Single Homeowners Is at Record High

February 26, 2020

Even as home prices rise, more Americans are heading into homeownership alone. The share of U.S. homeowners who are single reached a record 38.4% in 2018, the latest data available from the U.S. Census Bureau. A separate report says 48.5% of singles aged 18 to 34 owned a home in 2018, the highest level since 2009.

The numbers are higher because more Americans are single, analysts say. Also, an improving economy and strong job market is fueling more Americans to step out on their own in homeownership, even as home prices escalate, USA Today reports.

The share of 18- to 34-year-old Americans who are single reached a record in 2018 at 72.3%. “People are getting married later in life,” Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist for Haus, a company that partners with individuals to buy homes to reduce their costs, told USA Today. Women are increasingly entering the workforce and are rising to higher-level positions, delaying marriage and having children, he says. Older millennials who were delayed by the Great Recession in 2007 through 2009 also may have delayed marriage to put their careers first.

Also adding singles to the housing market: the rising number of Americans who have divorced later in life. In 2018, a record 16.1% of people 55 and older were divorced, up from 5% in 1980. A divorce can produce two single homeowners, McLaughlin notes.

But being single isn’t curbing appetite for homeownership. “Owning a home is a better deal than renting” in the majority of the country, McLaughlin told USA Today. Homeowners—no matter single or married—are realizing that and taking the plunge.

Builders are starting to gradually respond by ramping up entry-level homes. From 2015 to 2018, the share of homes less than 2,400 square feet increased to 51% from 47%, according to an analysis from the National Association of Home Builders.

But buying a home solo can pose challenges. The national median home price has increased 54% since 2012. However, the growth in average wages in that time has increased only by 20%, according to data from the National Association of REALTORS®.

Single homeowners tend to be more common in markets that are less expensive. For example, Des Moines, Iowa, tops the nation with nearly a quarter of all young adults who are single homeowners. On the other hand, less than 10% of young people are single homeowners in pricier markets like New York or San Francisco.