Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

Government data show that home buyers are older than they used to be, but Millennials are on the horizon

New data about 2015 home buyers will be out later this week.

Most of what we know about home buyers comes from the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers released by the National Association of Realtors® each November. The Profile is based on a comprehensive survey targeted at recent home buyers and sellers. The 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers will be released this week (Thursday, November 5, 2015), and it will be full of the latest insights on this past year’s home buyers.

The government also surveys people to gather information. In fact, the recently released American Community Survey (ACS) gathered information from roughly 3 million people across the country. While the ACS does not specifically target recent home buyers, we can get a decent approximation of recent “home buyers” by looking at data for those who currently own their own home and moved into the residence within the last year[1]. In the rest of the article, we will use the term “home buyers” to refer to these owners who recently moved.

Digging into the ACS data on recent home buyers by age, we find that older home buyers are a bigger share of the market. The shares in the 50+ age brackets are larger in 2014 than they were in 2005. These shares have grown while the shares of buyers in the under 30 and 35 to under 50 age groups have shrunk since 2005. The promise of the millennial buyer is seen in the recently growing share of those aged 30 to under 35.

In spite of the small changes in home buyer shares by age, the government data shows a remarkably steady median age over the years. The typical home buyer was 39 years old from 2005 to 2010 and 41 years old from 2011 to 2014. Data from the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers shows a similar trend with a slightly older median age than in the government data. One explanation for the relative steadiness in the government data may be the way that the data is collected. The American Community Survey (ACS) is an ongoing survey gathered each month such that recent movers could have moved in any month in a roughly 24 month window which is roughly centered on January of the survey year. By comparison, the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers targets only those who purchased a home from July to June of the survey year. Still, the data between the two surveys is remarkably consistent as seen in the tables below, and the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers has is available nearly a full year ahead of the government data.
So is the government survey wasteful and duplicative? No. The ACS provides data on a variety of topics in addition to recent movers, and it adds valuable information where there may be none. One additional benefit of the ACS data in relation to recent movers is that the large sample size enables us to see sub-groups that may not be visible in the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. For example, we can see a decent amount of variation by looking at the age of the typical recent buyer in each of the 50 states. Comparing 2005 and 2014 we can see that most states mirror the national trend of older buyers, some more significantly than others. A few states, 9 plus the District of Columbia, actually saw a younger typical home buyer in 2014 compared to 2005. North Dakota had the biggest move from 41.3 years to 34.6 years. Other large movers included Alaska, Nebraska, Alabama, the District of Columbia, and Wyoming where the age of the typical home buyer in 2014 was at least 2 years younger than the age of the typical home buyer in 2005.
What does the age of the typical mover look like in your state? 
Recent Age
Rec Age

[1] Current home owners could have been gifted the residence that they own, could have married into ownership, or could have previously purchased the property and used it as a second or investment home before moving into the property as a primary residence, so this definition is not an exact match for recent home buyers, but it is a good approximation.

Notice: The information on this page may not be current. The archive is a collection of content previously published on one or more NAR web properties. Archive pages are not updated and may no longer be accurate. Users must independently verify the accuracy and currency of the information found here. The National Association of REALTORS® disclaims all liability for any loss or injury resulting from the use of the information or data found on this page.