Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

Generational Home Purchases

When examining the homes Americans are purchasing, it is often important to look through a generational lens. With differences in buying power, family situations, and priorities, home buyers from different generations are purchasing very different homes. Using data from our 2022 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends report, we can see exactly where generations differ in their home buying habits, and where they are more similar than one would think.

With more buying power, Gen X home buyers purchased the most expensive homes, at a median price of $320,000. Unsurprisingly, younger millennials purchased the least expensive homes, at a median price of $250,00. With the highest percentage of single female buyers, the silent generation purchased the smallest homes at a median of 1,800 square feet. Older baby boomers purchased the newest homes, while older millennials and Gen X buyers purchased the oldest homes.

Table: Homes purchased, by generation

In 2021, buyers of new homes made up a 15% share of all buyers and those purchasing previously owned homes made up 85%. Twenty percent of the silent generation bought new homes, followed by younger baby boomers at 18%. Younger millennials were the most likely to purchase previously owned homes at 92%.

Bar graph: New and previously owned homes, by generation

Most recent buyers who purchased new homes were looking to avoid renovations and problems with plumbing or electricity, at 36%. Buyers who purchased previously owned homes most often considered them a better value, at 38%. Buyers aged 57 and older were more likely to purchase a new home for the ability to choose and customize design features.

The most common type of home purchase continued to be the detached single-family home, which made up 82% of all homes purchased. It was the most common home type among all generations, but the silent generation purchased apartments/condos at higher shares than other age groups.

Bar graph: Type of home purchased, by generation

Senior-related housing accounted for 14% of buyers over the age of 50; that number was 19% for older baby boomers and 28% for the silent generation.

There was only a median of 15 miles from the homes that recent buyers previously resided in and the homes that they purchased. The median distance moved was highest among older baby boomers, at 35 miles, while the lowest was among younger millennials at 10 miles.

Bar graph: Distance between home purchased and previous residence, by generation

The typical home recently purchased was 1,900 square feet, had three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and was built in 1993. The size of homes for older millennials was typically larger, at 2,400 square feet, compared to the silent generation at a median of 1,800 feet.

Heating and cooling costs and windows/doors/siding were the most important environmental features for recent home buyers, with 30% finding these two features very important. Younger millennials consider commuting costs most important, at 32%.

Bar graph: Environmentally friendly features considered "very important," by generation

Overall, buyers expected to live in their homes for a median of 12 years, down from 15 years last year. For younger millennials and the silent generation, the expected length of time was only 10 years compared to 20 years for younger baby boomers.