BAM Key Details: 

  • A new Redfin report shows homeowner tenure has doubled since 2005, mainly due to older Americans aging in place. At 11.9 years, today’s homeowner tenure is nearly twice the 6.5 years from 2005 but remains lower than the 2020 peak of 13.4 years. 
  • Redfin economists expect tenure to remain flat or increase to a small degree in the foreseeable future. 
  • A modest increase in existing home sales is expected for 2024 but not enough to bring about a decline in homeowner tenure anytime soon. 

According to a new Redfin report, today’s homeowners are staying in their homes nearly twice as long as they did nearly two decades ago. The main reason for that is older Americans choosing to age in place, boosting the average tenure. 

That said, today’s homeowner tenure of 11.9 years is still below the peak of 13.4 years reached in 2020, before the pandemic moving frenzy took hold. 

It’s still nearly double the 6.5 years from 2005. 

Redfin-Homeowner-tenure-doubled-since-2005

Source: Redfin

Redfin’s report stems from its analysis of median U.S. homeowner tenure by year as of 2023, based on historical county records. 

The report defines homeowner tenure for 2023 as “the number of years between the most recent sale date of a home and December 1, 2023.” 

Homeowner tenure by generation is based on Redfin’s analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s one-year American Community Survey in 2022—the most recent year for which this data is available. 

Homeowner tenure increases as baby boomers age in place

The main factor behind the increase in homeowner tenure since the early aughts is that older Americans—i.e., baby boomers and Gen X—are staying in their homes longer. 

In fact, almost 40% of boomers have lived in their homes for 20 years or more. Another 16% have lived in their home for 10 to 19 years. 

As for Gen X, more than one-third (35%) have lived in the same home for a decade or more. 

Millennials, on the other hand, typically live in the same home for shorter periods, partly because they’re younger and partly because they’re more likely to switch jobs compared to older generations. 

Here’s the breakdown for millennial homeownership tenure:

  • Less than 7% of millennials have lived in the same home for 10+ years
  • 13% for 5-9 years
  • 30% for less than five years

Almost all Gen Z homeowners have lived in the same home for less than five years, which makes sense since the oldest Gen Zer turned 26 in 2023. 

Redfin-2-in-5-boomers-have-lived-in-their-home-20-plus-years

Source: Redfin

Not everyone (in any age group) owns a home, obviously, which is why the time periods for each generation don’t add up to 100%. The gap is made up of renters and those living in other situations, including assisted living facilities. 

Boomers and Gen Xers have a larger impact on housing market trends, mainly because—- 

  1. The American population is aging: About 17% of Americans were 65-plus as of 2020—up from 13% in 2010. 
  2. Boomers and Gen Xers are more likely to own homes: Almost 80% of boomers and 72% of Gen Xers own their home—compared to 55% of millennials and 26% of Gen Zers.

Reasons homeowner tenure has increased since the early aughts

Older Americans (Boomers and Gen X) are staying in their homes longer because the high cost of buying a home—compared to staying put—incentivizes them to do so. 

Among baby boomers who own their homes, more than half (54%) own them free and clear. For this cohort, the median monthly cost of homeownership—including insurance and property taxes—runs just over $600. 

Almost all boomers with a mortgage have a significantly lower rate compared to what they would have if they bought a new home with today’s rates

Plus, some state tax systems have policies that incentivize aging in place: 

  • Texas homeowners aged 65 and up can defer property taxes until they sell their home
  • Californians have Proposition 13, which limits property tax increase for homeowners

Aside from financial incentives like the ones described above, many older Americans choose to stay in their homes simply because they would rather age in their family home than move to a different house or enter an assisted living facility. 

In fact, according to a recent survey, almost 90% of Americans between 50 and 80 years say it’s important to them to stay in their current homes as they get older. And with today’s advances in medical technology, it’s increasingly feasible to do so. 

In the early 2000s, it was easy and relatively inexpensive to move. More people were able to obtain mortgages and purchase homes thanks to looser mortgage-lending standards. That, of course, led to the subprime mortgage crisis. Easier isn’t always better. 

People staying put in their homes is contributing to the housing shortage

It’s a vicious circle. The shortage of for-sale homes and the high cost of homebuying—due to high mortgage rates and rising home prices—is incentivizing people to stay in their homes longer. And people staying in their homes longer contributes to the housing shortage, which contributes to those rising home prices. 

Long homeowner tenure, specifically among boomers, makes it more difficult for young first-time buyers to become homeowners. 

According to another Redfin analysis, empty-nest boomers own twice as many homes with three-plus bedrooms than millennials with kids. Some younger potential homebuyers with families are turning to new construction while others are renting. 

Homeowner tenure has shrunken 1.5 years from its 2020 peak

The average number of years people stay in their homes has dropped 1.5 years compared to the peak of 13.4 years reached in 2020, right before the pandemic set off a nationwide moving frenzy, thanks to record-low mortgage rates and the increase in remote work opportunities. 

That rush to take advantage of lower housing costs and greater workplace flexibility led to more homes changing ownership in 2021 than in any year since 2006. 

Redfin economists expect homeowner tenure to remain flat or increase to a minimal degree for the foreseeable future. 

Any increase will likely be tied to the 15-year low in existing home sales reached in 2023, with many homeowners locked into significantly lower mortgage rates. And while Redfin expects to see an increase in sales this year, it’s unlikely to be a large one. 

Metro-level highlights for homeowner tenure

Metros with the longest homeowner tenures: 

  1. Los Angeles, CA (The typical homeowner has lived in their home for 18.7 years)
  2. San Jose, CA (17.8 years)
  3. Cleveland, OH (17.4)
  4. San Francisco (16.7) 
  5. Memphis, TN (16.5) 

California homeowners tend to have longer tenures, partly because Proposition 13 incentivizes them to stay in their homes longer. 

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, homeowner tenures tend to be shorter in relatively affordable metros, particularly in the South. 

Metros with the shortest homeowner tenures:

  1. Louisville, KY (The typical homeowner stays in their home for 7.4 years) 
  2. Las Vegas (8 years)
  3. Nashville, TN (8.5)
  4. Charlotte, NC (8.5)
  5. Raleigh, NC (8.5)

Tenure runs shorter in these metros partly because, over the past few years, they’ve been popular migration destinations, meaning many of their homes have changed owners recently. 

Read the full report for more information, including metro-level stats and methodology.