Real estate firm survey: younger Americans still want to own a home

Even though a number of commentators have suggested younger Americans are not as interested in homeownership, a recent survey conducted by “Better Homes & Garden real estate brand” suggests this may not be the case:

Nearly all of them said they were willing to adjust their lifestyles to save for a home. Sixty-two percent said they’d eat out less. Forty percent said they’d work a second job. And 23 percent said they’d move back home with their parents to save money — they’re being strategic about saving money to own a home.

They also said that all of the media coverage of the housing crisis has taught them the importance of doing their research and planning, and they think they’re more knowledgeable about the process than their parents were at their age. But they want to be ready to own — 69 percent said that someone is ready to buy if they can maintain their lifestyle (while owning), and 61 percent agreed that the “readiness indicator” is if they have a secure job.

And even if these younger adults do want to own a home, the real estate industry has to be ready to appeal to this group:

Well, as an industry and certainly as a brand, we’d have to step up our campaign to show young buyers the importance of real estate as a long-term investment and lifestyle.

On a related note, something else also drove us to do this survey: the big disconnect in the average age of a first-time buyer (36), versus the average age of a real estate agent (56). This younger generation of buyers’ habits are different — they’re comfortable using technology, especially mobile devices, to buy and track everything, and agents need to learn this.

Several things are interesting here. First, it appears a good number of younger Americans do want a home but they are also more aware of what it will take to make it happen. If homeownership is such a big investment, younger Americans want to do their homework to know what they are getting into. This could mean that fewer people in this group will buy a home until they find a more “perfect” situation which might decrease the homeownership rate but it could also mean that those who buy a home are more committed.

Second, it is suggested that the real estate industry needs to stay relevant in the era of the Internet. Traditionally, real estate agents are necessary people in the middle who have expertise that the average homeowner would not have. But, potential homebuyers have much more information at their fingertips and if more people are selling their own homes, the real estate industry needs to continually show what extra value it offers. Also, this article hints at the aging of real estate agents: is this a desirable job for young people to pursue? If you look at a table of occupational prestige in the United States, real estate agent is at the bottom.

I wonder if the story for younger Americans and homeownership will be a bifurcated one based on socioeconomic status. Those with higher education and good jobs will continue to buy homes. Those who don’t have college degrees and/or struggle to find a good job may not have the option to do so.

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