Solo Living On The Rise

Solo living on the rise

John McGrath
John McGrath
20/12/2019 | 3 MIN READ

We have long assumed that a home houses many people. But the future of homes is increasingly single occupancy. More Australians are flying solo and embracing ‘loner living’, with a significant impact on the property market.


Confident and content with their single status, our new loner liver home buyers want smaller home options that suit their unique needs while also delivering a community right on their doorstep.


Almost a quarter of Australian homes in 2016 were single person households, an increase from one in five in 19911


The growth of loner living has been experienced around the world. Approximately one third of households in the EU in 2017 comprised single adults without children2 . In the UK in 2017, 28% of households contained one person, a big increase from around 17% in 19713 . In the US, some 35.4 million people, or 28.1% of all households, lived alone – a strong rise from 17.1% in 19704.


In Australia, the number of people living alone is forecast to surge from 2.3 million in 2016 to 3-3.5million in 2041, an increase of 32-53%5 .  


The number of one person households is projected to grow in all OECD countries from the early mid-2000s to 2025-30. The biggest increases are forecast for England (60%), New Zealand (71%) and France (75%)6.


One of the main drivers of loner living is an ageing demographic. In 2016, 14% of Australians were aged 65 years or over, an increase from 11% in 2011.7 This is forecast to rise to 21-23% by 20668. There has been a sharp increase in those aged 80 years or over living alone (from 9% in 1986 to 15% in 2011) and middle-aged people living alone (22% in 1986 to 31% in 2011)9 .  


Older Australians are more likely to be widowed and live alone by circumstance. Conversely, there is growing evidence that young people are choosing to live alone. Young people are marrying later, extending their single status. The median age at first marriage in 2017 was 30.4 years for men and 28.8 years for women. In the past decade, this has increased 0.8 years for men and 1.2 years for women10.


Community is at the heart of a single person’s needs in property. Rather than the selfish stereotype, research shows single people are heavily engaged with their community and more likely to help friends, neighbours and co-workers with shopping, errands, housework, transport and gardening.11


Developers are increasingly delivering ready-made communities for singles in apartment complexes.They are moving beyond the pool and gym to offer many more facilities that encourage interaction, such as communal rooftop gardens and kitchens, chill-out zones, yoga studios, libraries and in-house cinemas. After a busy week, singles can go home and socialise in their building with other residents.


Singles also want community on their doorstep. The walkability of their homes is important to ensure loner living doesn’t become lonely living. Being able to stroll to their local village for a coffee, some shopping or lunch with a friend is highly valued.


In one study cited in the landmark book, Livable Streets, Berkeley University urban design professor, Donald Appleyard found people living in walkable, low traffic streets had three times as many friends and twice as many acquaintances as people living in heavy traffic area12.


Walkable residential areas are also more valuable. The George Washington University School of Business found walkable urban places had a 66% rental rate premium over driveable suburban areas in the US13.


Research is also showing a positive correlation between property prices and’s.  Walk Score, a measure of an address’s walkability on a scale of 0-100. A US study by urban leadership group, CEOs for Cities, found a one point increase in Walk Score raised house prices between $US500 and $US3,00014 in 13 of the 15 US markets surveyed.


This is replicated in Australia. Melbourne buyers’ agency, Secret Agent, found a five point increase in Walk Score between the values of 60 and 100 added around $298 per square metre for houses15.


The emergence of small, thriving suburban villages and a strong café culture in Australia has made walkability even more desirable, particularly amongst time poor, environmentally conscious city dwellers. They don’t want to drive on weekends after commuting all week and are mindful that their sedentary jobs aren’t good for their health in this era of obesity.


Loner livers are aspiring to a unique type of home. Across the East Coast capitals, downsizers typically like luxurious new apartments in boutique, pet friendly blocks close to shops and transport to the CBD. Some developers are creating full blocks with this one type of residence alone, enabling the formation of empty nester communities that allow downsizers to age in a place with like-minded neighbours.


Singles like one bedders with a study zone and designer fixtures in a security block with CBD transport close by. For those on a good wicket, pocket penthouses could be a future trend.




1 2016 Census data summary, Australian Bureau of Statistics, published June 28,  2 Rising proportion of single person households in the EU, Eurostat, published July 6, 2018, 3 Families and households 2017, Office for National Statistics, published November 8, 2017, 4 Unmarried and single Americans, United States Census Bureau, published August 14, 2017, 5 Household and family projections Australia 2016 to 2041, Australian Bureau of Statistics, published March 14, 2019, 6 The future of families to 2030, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, published 2011, 7 Ageing population 2016, Australian Bureau of Statistics, published October 23, 2017, 8 Population projections Australia 2017, Australian Bureau of Statistics, published November 22, 2018, 9 Demographics of living alone, Australian Institute of Family Studies, published March 2015,  10 Marriages and divorces Australia 2017, Australian Bureau of Statistics, published November 27, 2018, 11 Think single people are selfish? The research proves otherwise, Della DePaulo, Washington Post, published May 25, 2018, 12 Livable Streets, Donald Appleyard, published 1981, 13 Foot traffic ahead, The George Washington University School of Business, published 2016, 14 How walkability raises home values in US cities, CEOs for Cities, published August 2019, 15 Wonderful walkability, Secret Agent, published August 2013 

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