According to new research from CBRE, the average age of U.S. adults at their first marriages has risen to historical highs. From 1960 to 2018, the average rose seven years for both men and women. Over the past 10 years alone, the average climbed by two years. In 2018, the average age was 29.8 years for men and 27.8 for women.
Marriage is closely associated with homebuying, and delays in the former are contributing to delays in the latter. Later marriages are keeping younger adults in rental housing longer and has contributed to the high multifamily demand in recent years, reports CBRE.
Married couples are far more likely to purchase a home than any other household type, making up 66% of homebuyers across all age categories, according to the 2018 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report published by the National Association of Realtors.
Delayed marriage clearly helps explain delayed homebuying. Yet, the importance of marriage for homeownership is changing. Marriage rates, in general, are declining; 50 years ago, 72% of all adults 18 and over were married compared to 50% today. Also, the share of adults that have been married at least once (but may currently be unmarried due to divorce or widowhood) has fallen from 85% in 1960 to 67% today. Non-married couples living together, single-person households and single-parent households are much more common today and are better represented among homebuyers than in previous generations. For example, NAR reports that single women now account for 18% of homebuyers.
Homebuying by these "non-traditional" households partly explains the recent homeownership gains among households under 35 years olds. The average rate rose by 2.5 percentage points from the lowest point reached in Q2 2016. However, the Q4 2018 rate of 36.5% is still well below the 2004 peak, and the homeownership rate for younger adults will never come close to the prior peak.