The Recession has taught all Americans that a home is not a stable financial asset, but younger adults have taken the lesson to heart.
The Recession has made all Americans painfully aware that their home might not be the best investment, but the lesson seems to be hitting the youngest Americans the hardest.
Homeownership rates have declined since a high of 69.2 percent in 2004 and reached 66.4 percent at the end of March, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The sharpest decline in home ownership is among Americans younger that 44, who experienced a 5.2 percent drop in homeownership since the end of 2005.
In March, 37.9 percent of Americans younger than 35 owned homes, compared to 43.1 percent at the end of 2005, while homeownership among Americans 35 to 44 years fell to 64.4 percent from 69.7 percent.
Baby Boomers and retirees saw smaller declines in homeownership. Homeownership for Americans 45 to 54 years old dropped 3.6 percent to 73.1 percent from 76.7 percent. Those 55 to 64 years old experienced a 2 percent drop to 78.6 percent from 80.6 percent; and retirees saw a tiny increase from 80.6 percent to 81 percent.
The decline in home ownership among young people parallels a growing skepticism about the financial benefits of owning a home. While 70 percent of Americans would advise a loved one to buy a home to build long-term assets, young Americans, those aged 18 to 29, are less convinced a home is a sound investment, according to the results of an Allstate Heartland Monitor Poll released in March. Young adults appear ambivalent about buying a home with 49 percent saying it is a sound investment and an equal percentage saying it’s too risky.
Americans surveyed by Allstate said it was more important to invest in retirement savings (38 percent) than buy a home (24 percent), but homeownership ranked above saving money in a bank and investing in the stock market.
About 40 percent of millionaires and non-millionaires interviewed in December by Spectrem group say the Recession has taught them their home is not a stable financial asset. An April survey shows that homeownership is lowest for affluent investors who are younger than 40. The youngest affluent have a homeownership rate of 95.6 percent, but the rate nears 99 percent for affluent investors who are 51 years or older.
Affluent investors have a net worth of $500,000, excluding the value of their primary residence.
Less than 30 percent of investors younger than 40 own a second home, compared to 42.2 percent of investors 51 to 60 and 38.4 percent of those 60 or older. Younger investors are also much less likely to buy undeveloped land – which does not produce income, but can appreciate in value. Slightly more than 16 percent invest in raw land, compared to 21.7 percent for investors aged 52 to 60.