John McGrath – The home ownership choices of the Boomers, Gen X & Millennials
The desire to own our own homes is a cultural aspiration spanning all generations of Australians.
But it has shifted a bit in the past few decades.
For example, more people buy apartments for their first homes now, and ‘rentvestors’ have amended the Great Australian Dream from home ownership to property ownership.
So, why have our choices changed over the years?
Many people would say it’s all related to affordability. But there is actually more to it than that.
A recent study from the Australian Bureau of Statistics uncovers the key social trends and lifestyle choices that have influenced the property decisions made by the Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials.
Using Census data, the report looks at the common property choices made by each generation at the same stage of life, when they were aged between 25 and 39 years.
Baby boomers were this age at the 1991 Census, Gen Xers at the 2006 Census and Millennials at the 2021 Census.
As we already know, this is commonly a stage of life when many people buy their first property.
The rising age of first ownership
At ages 25-39, 65.8% of Baby Boomers were homeowners (owned outright or with a mortgage) compared with 62.1% of Generation Xers and 54.6% of Millennials.
There are many reasons why the average age of first home ownership is rising: Affordability, more people going to university and thereby delaying full-time income, and getting married and having kids later in life.
Getting married and having kids later in life
Delaying marriage and having fewer children than their forebears means Millennial singles and couples can live comfortably in smaller homes for a longer period of time during their early lives.
At ages 25-39, 51.5% of Baby Boomers were living in family households compared to 40.7% of Gen Xers and 21.2% of Millennials.
Australia has one of the most highly valued property markets in the world, so ownership isn’t easy to attain.
One way people have adapted is through apartment living. In the 1990s, it was almost unheard of for a family to live in an apartment. Now, it’s very common.
And these days, many couples are delaying marriage and children because they want to buy a home first.
More women in the workforce
The number of women in the workforce has risen over successive generations from 59.9% among Baby Boomers aged 25-39 to 65.4% among Gen Xers and 72.8% among Millennials.
Young professional women are a real force in Australian real estate today. They want to establish their own independent financial security as early in life as possible.
The data also shows that fewer Millennial mums are leaving the workforce permanently to raise their kids full-time.
A key reason is affordability, with a double income now necessary in many markets to service a loan, especially if you own a house.
Rates of university study increasing
At ages 25-39, a higher proportion of Millennials (79.2%) had a tertiary qualification compared to 64.2% of Gen Xers and 47.6% of Baby Boomers.
Improved accessibility to further education is one reason for this. From the late 1980s, the university sector rapidly expanded with 20 new universities accredited between 1987 and 1999. Education requirements for various industries also increased. For example, nursing only became an undergraduate degree in 1994.
Inevitably, studying delays income production, which delays home ownership. These days, many young people remain in the family home with their parents while studying.
However, a university degree does help people earn higher incomes, which makes homeownership more affordable later.
There’s one more aspect to home ownership that most people across the generations would agree on, and that is the importance of owning your own home in retirement.
The Federal Government’s 2020 Retirement Income Review showed debt-free home ownership is the key to a comfortable life in retirement in Australia.
So that’s a worthy goal, no matter what age you buy your first home, or what lifestyle choices you make through the ages of 25 to 39.