April 30, 2017
After dropping to an all time low 62.9% in Q2 of 2016, the US homeownership rate rebounded modestly in the subsequent two quarters, before once again taking a step lower according to the latest Census data, released last week, and which showed that the percentage of US homeowners declined from 63.7% to 63.6% in Q1 of 2017, less than 1% from the all time lows in the series history going back to the mid 1960s.
A breakdown of the data by age group reveals that the primary driver for this latest decline was once again the youngest age cohort. While older Americans, especially those 65 and older, have predictably seen only modest declines in their homeownership in recent decades, it was the youngest age group, those 35 and younger, i.e. the Millennials, who once again decided against owning and chose to rent instead.
As shown in the chart below, the homeownership rate for Americans 35 and younger slumped from 34.7% as of December 2016 to 34.3%, in line with the lowest rate reported by the Census Bureau going back nearly a quarter century. Of note: the largest decline in the homeownership rate following the collapse in the house market occurred for households aged 35 to 44, although it appears to be stabilizing in recent quarters.
And since most young Americans are opting not to own, but rather rent, the latest data from the Census showed that in Q1, the median asking rent was flat at $864, just $6 below the all time high recorded one year earlier.
Broken down by region, there has been a sharp spike in asking rents in the Northeast region, which continues to closely compete with asking rents in the West, i.e., California, with the median rent in the two regions approximately $1,100 and well above rents in either the Midwest or the South.
That said, the contribution from owner-occupied households to overall household growth continues to increase, while the contribution from renters has stabilized after falling sharply in late 2015 and through much of 2016. On a year-over-year basis, the four-quarter moving average of renter-occupied households increased 599,000 in the first quarter, while the four-quarter moving average of owner-occupied households increased 441,000. The gap between the increase in renter- and owner-occupied households was the narrowest since the second quarter of 2007.
Finally, Census also revealed an increase of 158,000 households in the first quarter, following an increase of 47,000 in the fourth quarter of 2016. On a year-over-year basis, the number of households was up 1.219 million in the first quarter, up from 804,000 in the fourth quarter. The HVS data can be noisy, so we focus on year-over-year changes in four-quarter moving averages to assess trends in household formation. On that basis, the increase in households in the first quarter was 1.039 million, up from 878,000 in the fourth quarter.
Source: US Census