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Steep rise in unmarried couples buying homes together

By Mike Wheatley | February 9, 2017

The share of young unmarried couples buying homes together has been on the rise over the past decade, according to a new Zillow analysis. Across the country, almost 15 percent of all homebuyers age 24-35 are unmarried couples, up from 11 percent in 2005.

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Of the markets analyzed, Washington, D.C. had the greatest increase in the share of unmarried homebuyer couples -- almost 16 percent of all young homebuyers in D.C. are unmarried couples, up from 7.5 percent in 2005. Philadelphia and Miami also had large increases in the share of young unmarried couples buying homes together.

The majority of homebuyers have long been married couples, but as home values continue to rise, more unmarried couples are buying homes together since it's more affordable with two incomes.

Home values across the country are rising at their fastest pace since 2006, and some of the nation's hottest housing markets -- like Seattle, Denver and Portland, Ore. -- have surpassed peak home values reached during the housing bubble. The median home value in the U.S. is now $193,800 -- up 7 percent over the past year. As homes become increasingly expensive, the need to purchase a home with someone else becomes a necessity -- almost 75 percent of all buyers are married or in a relationship.

"Buying a home is a big part of The American Dream – equally shared by millennials and Baby Boomers alike – but it's becoming extremely difficult to make it work on a single income," said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. "Many singles looking to purchase a home on their own may not make enough money to afford or qualify for a mortgage on their dream home. That makes buying a home with a significant other even more appealing, even if marriage isn't quite part of the picture. Simply put, buying a home is much easier with two incomes. Assuming home value growth continues to outpace income growth, I imagine this trend will continue."
While more unmarried couples are buying homes together, fewer singles are purchasing homes on their own. About 25 percent of all homebuyers age 24-35 are single, down from 28 percent in 2005.

Columbus, Ohio had the greatest drop in the share of single homebuyers, followed by Las Vegas. In 2005, almost 40 percent of all young Columbus homebuyers were single. Now, it's less than 20 percent. Portland, Ore., which has the fastest home value growth in the country, has also had a large drop in the share of young singles buying homes -- there's been a 10 percentage point decline since 2005.

The median age of today's homebuyer is 36 years old, and the majority shop with a significant other, according to the 2016 Zillow Group Report on Consumer Housing Trends. Millennials, age 18-34, make up 42 percent of all buyers today -- the largest share of all generational groups.

Mike Wheatley is the senior editor at Realty Biz News. Got a real estate related news article you wish to share, contact Mike at [email protected].
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