Surge in young buyers boosted homeownership rate during COVID, Census Bureau finds

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A wave of younger buyers drove the U.S. homeownership rate up during COVID-19, with numbers rising even higher last year than before the pandemic, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday.

The federal agency’s latest population and housing survey found that homeownership rates rose by 1.2 percentage points from 2016 to 2019 and another 1.2 points from 2019 to 2022.

That 2.4-point increase recovered nearly half of a 5.6-point decrease that was dragged down by the 2007-10 mortgage foreclosure crisis and ended in 2016, the bureau noted. In 2016, the homeownership rate dipped to a low of 63.4% of adults.

Homeownership grew from 64.6% of adults in 2019 before the pandemic to 68.6% last year, thanks to a surge in first-time buyers younger than 45, the Census Bureau said.

Because pandemic restrictions disrupted the survey in 2020 and 2021, the agency said it could not report with certainty whether the rates grew during those two years as well.

“Younger households typically are more likely to rent than own homes,” said Robert R. Callis, a Census Bureau survey statistician. “Yet from 2016 to 2022, homeownership among adults under age 55 went up but remained stable among older populations.”

From 2016 to 2019, homeownership rose by 2.2 percentage points among householders under 35, 1.5 points among those ages 35 to 44 and 0.8 point in the 45-54 group.

“Rates among older householders were not statistically different during the same period,” Mr. Callis said.

The homeownership rate in the Midwest hit 70% in 2022, the highest of all regions. That was followed by the South (67.3%), Northeast (62.5%) and West (61.4%).

“Low mortgage rates likely helped drive the rise, even after [interest] rates began to go up in 2022,” Mr. Callis said.

Homeownership continued to rise at the same pace from 2019 to 2022, with rates increasing by about 2% among householders under 45. The rate also crept up half a percentage point among those 65 and older during the same period.

Homeownership rates increased in all regions of the country and among all racial and ethnic groups, the Census Bureau found.

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