Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

As Valentine’s Day and Galentine’s Day is upon us, the month of love is embraced. Love for oneself, one's home, friends, and family. But that love is celebrated in a vastly different environment than it has been historically. In the 1960s more than 7 in 10 Americans were married. Today, just half of Americans are married.

Much has been cited about the change in marriage rates and how that is impacting housing. Some speculate that it is a contributing factor to the decline in first-time buyers nationwide. However, even single adults have to live somewhere. Many are embracing homeownership independently or with a new arrangement. With the housing affordability and inventory crisis—especially at lower price points—buyers are re-imagining homeownership that fits their needs, not the generations of the past.

The first-time buyer composition is mirroring the change in marriage rates. In the 1980s, there was at one point a peak of 75% of first-time buyers entering the market as a married couple. Today only 53% of first-time buyers were married couples.

So, who are the other buyers? The story had once been single females (cue Beyoncé), but today the single female buyer is not necessarily the leading lady. It is true that 17% of all recent first-time buyers were single females, but the share has dropped from a high of 27%. This drop is likely due to housing affordability. It is harder for a single-income individual to enter the competitive housing market the U.S. is facing today. Notably, while single men have traditionally had smaller shares of home buyers, the share of single men has now crept up to 10% of the first-time buyer market.

The recent, unprecedented rise among first-time buyers has actually been among unmarried couples. Those who are in a romantic partnership that, while they have not committed to a marriage together, have committed to a home together. The share of unmarried couples purchasing their first home is now on par with single females at 17% and is the largest share ever recorded in the data series.

Another rise is among the other category. This category could be any combination of adults but it sums up to roommates purchasing homes together—perhaps Galentines. These buyers have jumped from 2% to 4% in the last year. Not a large share of buyers, but it is a notable jump.

Buyers in the other category and unmarried couples do have something that single buyers do not: dual incomes. Dual incomes allow them to navigate the housing market and perhaps allows them to purchase a home that is at a higher price point where they may face less competition in the buying market.

For more information on how relationship status and household composition affects homeownership choices, check out the 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.

Line graph: First-Time Buyers: Wedding Ring Not Required

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