More Young Unmarried Couples Buying Homes Together

The late, great real estate columnist Bob Bruss had advice for unmarried people thinking about purchasing real estate together: “Don’t do it.”

But a new analysis from Zillow Inc., Seattle, says more and more unmarried couples are taking the plunge–into homeownership. It reported nearly 15 percent of all young homebuyers (ages 24-35) over the past decade are unrelated, up from 11 percent in 2005.

The analysis also reported the percentage of homebuyers who are single has been declining since 2010, falling to 25 percent in 2015 from 28 percent in 2005.

Zillow said while the majority of homebuyers have long been married couples, as home values continue to rise, more unmarried couples are buying homes together since it’s more affordable with two incomes.

“Buying a home is a big part of The American Dream–equally shared by millennials and Baby Boomers alike–but it’s becoming extremely difficult to make it work on a single income,” said Zillow Chief Economist Svenja Gudell. “Many singles looking to purchase a home on their own may not make enough money to afford or qualify for a mortgage on their dream home. That makes buying a home with a significant other even more appealing, even if marriage isn’t quite part of the picture.”

Gudell noted home values across the country are rising at their fastest pace since 2006, and some of the nation’s hottest housing markets, such as Seattle, Denver and Portland, Ore., have surpassed peak home values reached during the housing bubble. The median home value in the U.S. is now $193,800–up 7 percent over the past year.

“As homes become increasingly expensive, the need to purchase a home with someone else becomes a necessity–almost 75 percent of all buyers are married or in a relationship,” Gudell said.

Gudell added that, assuming home value growth continues to outpace income growth, this trend should continue.

Of the markets Zillow analyzed, Washington, D.C. had the greatest increase in the share of unmarried homebuyer couples–nearly 16 percent, up from 7.5 percent in 2005. Philadelphia and Miami also saw large increases in the share of young unmarried couples buying homes together.

Columbus, Ohio saw the greatest drop in the share of single homebuyers, followed by Las Vegas. In 2005, nearly 40 percent of all young Columbus homebuyers were single. By 2015, it fell to less than 20 percent. Portland, Ore., which saw the fastest home value growth in the country, also had a large drop in the share of young singles buying homes, down by 10 percentage points since 2005.

Zillow reported the median age of today’s homebuyer is 36 years old, and the majority shop with a significant other. Millennials, age 18-34, make up 42 percent of all buyers today, the largest share of all generational groups.