Is homeownership primarily about marriage and children?

One of the primary motivations to buy a house is to provide a safe and stable nest for the family.

While working for a homebuilder in my late 20s, I built my own home. At the time I was still single, but I built a home large enough to accommodate a family — just in case. While I convinced myself the house was a good investment, the emotional satisfaction came from my secret desire to prepare for a family.

When I was in my early 20s, I had no desire to be a homeowner, I moved frequently for school, and I had no ties to the communities I was living in. My early 20s were spent getting out of a relationship. It was a really toxic one, and I spent a considerable amount of time dilly-dallying on websites like Why would I want to limit my options by anchoring myself to a house under those circumstances?chidlren_lose_home

Once I got married, the desire to own a house resurfaced, but by the time I got settled in California and ready to buy, it was 2004, and house prices were insane, so I didn’t buy anything. I’ve been renting ever since.

Even now, 15 years after I sold my house, I still feel the desire to own the house I live in, and at some point I may buy one as a primary residence. I want the emotional satisfaction of owning my home, primarily because I believe homeownership will confer a sense of permanence and security to my family — even if that permanence and security is an illusion.

I doubt I am alone with these feelings and aspirations. This instinctive drive creates much of the demand for home ownership.

America’s Dream Home: Midsized, Suburban and Modern

Americans are surprisingly practical when it comes to their dream homes. Being married and having children is one of the biggest drivers of homeownership, but age will likely determine the type of homes that people want.

Selma Hepp, Chief Economist, August 5th, 2015americandream

For many Americans, homeownership is part of their personal American Dream. For some, this dream of owning a home is well within reach, but for others it may as well be a dream within a dream. But what does this dream home look like? And where is located? What amenities do people dream of most?…

First Comes Marriage, Then Comes Baby and House
With the U.S. housing market on the mend, 7 in 10 Americans (71%) said owning a home is part of achieving their personal “American Dream.” While still a majority, this is a notable decrease from 77% in 2010.

As I pointed out above, the desire for home ownership is rooted in instinctual desires to provide for a family. It should surprise anyone that a very large percentage want to own a house.

Yet despite this downward trend, America is not becoming a nation of renters. Most Millennial renters aged 18-34 (89%) plan to buy a home one day – more than any other generation.

If wishes were horses, we would all have ponies. Eighty-nine percent may plan to buy a home, but that doesn’t mean they will marshal the resources to actually make that happen.

American Dream Home_WhoWantsToBuy

Note that once people get past the age where they have children that the desire for home ownership erodes significantly. People who buy late in life generally do so to fix their cost of housing in retirement, a much less powerful motivation.

But as more people today forgo or delay marriage and children, homeownership has become more of a lifestyle choice than an expected life milestone. Among parents with children under 18 years old, 81% said homeownership is part of their American Dream. In fact, most parents – regardless of their marital status – plan to buy a home as their primary residence once day.

American Dream Home_KidsDriveHomeownership

Once children enter the picture, the desire to own a home increases significantly. But do children really know the difference? I don’t think they do.

IMO, people want to buy homes because the perceive this as more stable, and what they really want is that sense of permanence and stability. Homeownership becomes a means to an end, not an end onto itself. But since we live in a culture with few rights for renters, the only way to obtain the feeling of permanence is to buy a home.

More than 7 in 10 Millennials Plan to Buy in 2018 or Later

While many Americans aspire to become homeowners, most are not ready to buy a home. Only 14% of those who plan to buy say they will do so within the next year. Most (69%) plan to wait at least two years.

Most Millennials won’t qualify for a mortgage until 2019, so it shouldn’t be surprising that most don’t plan to buy any time soon. Also, most Millennials are wise enough to recognize they won’t be a qualified buyer in the next two years because they have too much debt, too little savings, and they don’t make enough money.

In tracking the housing recovery, the intentions of Millennials has been a key indicator that we’ve been following. Why? This generation of first-time homebuyers was hit hard during the recession, and their ability to find jobs, move out of their parents’ homes and form their own households, and eventually become homeowners is a key part of a healthy housing market. Of the 18-34 years old who aspire to become homeowners, 72% said they plan to buy a home in 2018 or later. The sense of urgency only increased when marriage and children were involved.

American Dream Home_When

When Do You Plan to Buy (Another) Home as Your Primary Residence?
All Married without Kids Under 18 Married with Kids Under 18
Within the next 6 months 4% 6% 9%
7-12 months from now 7% 10% 18%
13-24 months from now 17% 29% 20%
More than 2 years from now 72% 55% 53%
Note: Among Millennials (18-34 year old) who plan purchase a home

So what’s holding Millennials back from homeownership? Money. Only 36% of Millennials are currently saving up to buy a home in the next five years. Most (52%) have their eyes on a new car, while others have shifted their priorities towards college tuition (35%), a trip of a lifetime (26%), a wedding (15%), retirement (9%) or an engagement ring (8%). Nevertheless, this generation remains optimistic with 87% believing that they will be able to purchase their dream home one day.

next_generationThey are optimistic in their desires, but realistic in their timing on when they may be in a position to act on those desires, so most recognize they won’t be buying in the next two years.

Only a small subset of Americans (just 35% of homeowners) said they’ve already purchased their dream homes – that means an overwhelming majority are still searching for a perfect place to call “dream home”. In fact, over one quarter of Americans are regularly searching for a dream home online with 28% looking at least once a month. So what does the American dream home look like? Well, it really depends on how old you are. …

Funny thing about dream homes: each time you acquire one, the charm wears off, and you end up wanting a larger and more opulent one in a better location.

All in all, Americans are pretty realistic and practical when it comes what they want in their dream home. Most people aren’t looking for a grand mansion, tiny home or even a home with an iconic architectural style – they want a mid-sized, modern home in the suburbs with a backyard deck. This is likely because the dream of homeownership is largely driven by marriage and children. Having a duel income makes buying a home more affordable, while parents often want the stability that comes with owning a home. As a result, many would-be homeowners dream of finding a home where they can raise their families. Such is the game of life.


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