(The Hill) – Fewer Americans are moving into new homes than ever since the government started keeping track as demographic trends collide with a hot housing market where prices are rising due to lack of supply.
New data from the US Census Bureau shows that only 8.4 percent of Americans live in a different home than they did a year ago. This is the lowest movement rate the office has seen since 1948.
That proportion means around 27.1 million people moved in the last year, also the lowest number ever recorded.
The number of Americans moving from one home to another has been falling for decades, said Cheryl Russell, who writes the Demo Memo blog on demographic trends. In the 1950s and 1960s, roughly one in five Americans moved in any given year. Up to the turn of the century it was 14 percent and a decade ago it was 11.6 percent.
The more sedentary population is the product of a handful of demographic factors that have grown as the American population ages, as the aftermath of the Great Recession a decade ago continues and the pandemic slows many people’s plans.
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Edward Berchick, a senior population scientist at online real estate firm Zillow, said all of these factors contributed to fewer home sales.
Older people tend to exercise less. And since fewer Americans have children – the birth rate is also lower than ever before – fewer families feel the need to move to bigger homes. The pandemic also cautioned shoppers as they protected themselves from the virus.
“Right now there is a lot of uncertainty about longer-term plans,” said Berchick. “When there is some economic uncertainty, people just pause their plans.”
The aging population plays an important role. Never before has the United States had so many residents over 65 – an age when people are most likely to own their own homes and are the least likely to be under pressure to move.
“Aging boomers cling to their homes the way older Americans do,” Russell said in an email. “Boomers are in the phase of life that people normally stay in. As older Americans increasingly dominate home ownership, the top-heavy age structure has reduced inventory and dampened mobility. “
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At the same time, apartment hunters come across some of the highest prices ever recorded. Zillow data shows the typical home value is $ 312,000, up 19 percent from last year and a projected increase of another 13 percent in the coming year.
Prices are rising not only in large cities like New York, Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, but also in smaller midsize metropolitan areas. Data compiled by Realtor.com, an online real estate agency, found the hottest markets in the United States are in Manchester, NH, Burlington, NC, east of Greensboro, and Eureka, California.
Three Indiana cities – Elkhart, Lafayette, and Fort Wayne – are also some of the hottest markets in the country.
The soaring prices mean those looking for a home are entering a market where their dollar is not going as far as it used to be. Persistent housing shortages and construction, which slowed during the pandemic, in part due to problems with the supply chain and labor, have pushed house prices even higher.
The data from the Census Bureau shows that the total number of housing units grew by only 6.6 percent between 2010 and 2020, while the number of vacant apartments decreased by 8.6 percent, a sign that the market is more likely to become scarcer than expands.
“Over the past several decades, population growth has outpaced housing supply growth,” said Berchick.