Tuesday, October 27, 2020

First-Time Homebuyer Watch: 3rd Quarter 2020

Homeownership rate of householders aged 30 to 34, third quarter 2020: 50.1%

For the first time since 2011, the homeownership rate of householders aged 30 to 34 edged above the 50 percent threshold, allowing them to reclaim their position as the nation's first-time homebuyers. First-time homebuyers are defined as the age group in which the homeownership rate first surpasses 50 percent. Historically, householders aged 30-to-34 were the nation's first-time homebuyers. But in 2011, their homeownership rate fell below 50 percent and has been stuck there ever since. Until now. 

Let's postpone the celebration, however. The coronavirus pandemic has upended the nation's data collection efforts. The Housing Vacancy Survey (HVS), which produces the quarterly homeownership statistics, is no exception. Because of the pandemic, the Census Bureau has been collecting HVS data by telephone rather than in-person interviews, and monthly response rates have dropped. Just 66 percent of households responded in July and 69 percent in August. This compares with a response rate of 83 percent for those months in 2019. When the Census Bureau resumed in-person interviews in September, the response rate increased to 79 percent, a hopeful sign that things will eventually return to normal. 

But not yet. As was true for second quarter 2020 data, third quarter data cannot be taken at face value. As senior research associate Daniel McCue of the Joint Center for Housing Studies explains it: "It appears that we are in for a period of time where trends in housing metrics obtained from the HVS—such as homeownership rates, vacancy rates, and household growth—will be difficult to determine and largely unknown."

Source: Census Bureau, Housing Vacancy Survey

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