Home Buying “In Sin”

In an earlier and less progressive age unmarried couples were said to be “shacking up” or “living in sin” – but no more. Nowadays, living together as an unmarried couple is so commonplace, so normal, that many of these couples are buying houses.

According to a new study from online real estate company Zillow, nearly 15 percent of all young homebuyers are unmarried couples, up from 11 percent prior to the recession.

The percentage of homebuyers who are single has been declining since 2010.

Of the markets analyzed, Washington, D.C. had the greatest increase in the share of unmarried homebuyer couples — almost 16 percent of all young homebuyers in D.C. are unmarried couples, up from 7.5 percent in 2005.

Philadelphia and Miami also had large increases in the share of young unmarried couples buying homes together.

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

Home values across the country are rising at their fastest pace since 2006, and some of the nation’s hottest housing markets — like 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.

Fewer Singles Are Buying Houses

While more unmarried couples are buying homes together, fewer singles are purchasing homes on their own. About 25 percent of all homebuyers age 24-35 are single, down from 28 percent in 2005.

Columbus, Ohio had the greatest drop in the share of single homebuyers, followed by Las Vegas. In 2005, almost 40 percent of all young Columbus homebuyers were single.

Now, it’s less than 20 percent. Portland, Ore., which has the fastest home value growth in the country, has also had a large drop in the share of young singles buying homes — there’s been a 10 percentage point decline since 2005.

The median age of today’s homebuyer is 36 years old, and the majority shop with a significant other, according to the 2016 Zillow Group Report on Consumer Housing Trends. Millennials, age 18-34, make up 42 percent of all buyers today — the largest share of all generational groups.

But Are These Couples…Actual Couples?

This is all interesting, but it leaves a big question unanswered: how many of these unmarried couples, are couples?

If finances are the key motivator here, it’s quite possible that many of these couples are, essentially, business partners. People with no romantic relationship who team up to do what neither could do as an individual.

This is an interesting phenomenon, indeed.

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