How often do single family home owners move? How often do condo owners move?

Asked by Daveindenver, Denver, CO Wed Apr 11, 2012

Ideally, I am looking for research to support the answer.

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Norm, , 98033
Fri Jan 29, 2016
I work in the mortgage industry, where it is "common knowledge" that homeowners move every 5-7 years. It's one of those figures that everyone just accepts, because they can't believe everyone else would believe it if it wasn't true.

I didn't believe it. So researched this for home owners as a whole, but not separated out into homes and condos. Here is what I found out (figures in the sources named below are estimates, which I have rounded to the nearest $1 million)

The 2013 Housing Profile published by the US Census Bureau says there were an estimated 133 million homes, condos and co-operative units in the US. Of these, about 17 million are vacant or are seasonal rentals. 77 million are owner occupied. 40 million are occupied by renters.

This month (January, 2016) The Department of Urban Development (HUD) released a report saying that an estimated 500,000 new homes sold in 2015, and that two previous years were within 5% of this figure. So since 2013, another million homes have been added, but some have also been destroyed, so the 2013 figures will suffice for our purposes.

According to the National Association of Realtors, 5.09 million existing homes were sold in 2015, by dividing this number into the total number of homeowners who live in their homes (77 million), the result tells us that just 4.1% of homeowners sold their homes in 2015. If 4.16% of homeowners sell their home every year, the average length of home-ownership is 24 years.

This will strike many people as a long term of average home ownership. But consider this: 34% of homeowners in 2015 owned their home free and clear with no mortgage. I don't have any documentation to back this up, and of course some wealthy individuals purchase their homes for cash, but I think it's reasonable to assume that, on average, these people have lived in their homes a long, long time.

Many Americans who live in large metropolitan areas, where people move more frequently, have a hard time even believing that 34% of US homes have no mortgage debt. I live in the Seattle area. I was able to find statistics from a local suburb in the Seattle/Tacoma area, that indicated that the average single family home (including condos) sold approximately every 15 years. So here we see that in a metropolitan area, there is a larger transient population that moves every few years, bringing the average down substantially.

So the bottom line is that it varies from place to place, but 15-25 years is probably a realistic average term of home ownership.
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Nicole Donov…, Agent, Newport Beach, CA
Wed Apr 11, 2012
American home owners sell and move, on average, every five to seven years. Why do home owners move? People who have lived in the same home for the past 30 years have a hard time understanding this phenomena. They are shocked that people move so often, but I know one thing for certain: Their day to sell and move will come as well.
• 1) Home is too small. First-time home buyers often outgrow their "starter" homes. Increased family size is the main reason home owners say they need a larger home.
• 2) Upgrade. The grass is greener on the other side. People often want what they don't have and long for a bigger, more expensive and grander, upscale home. It's the American way.
• 3) Fix purchase error. Owners might believe they made a mistake when purchasing their present home and want to rectify that mistake. Maybe they thought they could get by without a back yard but yearn to garden, or the dining room in the center of the house annoys them, or they no longer enjoy the underbelly of planes flying overhead within inches of their face.
• 4) Job transfer. Relocation makes it necessary for many to pull up roots and move. If the commuting distance exceeds an hour, most people would prefer not to spend two hours in traffic every day.
• 5) Personal Relationships. Moving in with a partner or getting married can mean one of the parties will need to sell, especially if both owned homes prior to the commitment. On the other hand, break-ups cause owners to sell as well for three basic reasons:
1. One party may need to buy out the other and not have the cash available.
2. The home may not be affordable to sustain on one person's income.
3. The home holds bad memories, making a fresh start desirable.
• 6) Neighborhood changes. The neighborhood might have changed for the worse, economically, socially or physically. For example, maybe a freeway was constructed nearby. Maybe the next-door neighbors receive visitors who arrive wearing striped pajamas at 2 AM. Or they have hung sheets over their windows while a skunk-like odor permeates the air.
• 7) Empty nest. The kids have grown up and moved out. The owners want a smaller home. The older you get, the harder it is to keep a big house clean.
• 8) See family more often. Some people want to be closer to their family as they age and will move to be near relatives. Parents want to be near children. Grandparents, near their children and grandchildren.
• 9) See family less often. To put more distance between the home owners and relatives. Some might move out of state to keep harmony within the family. Dysfunctional and fractured families have been known to blossom being separated.
• 10) Retirement. Active-adult communities are attracting many buyers over the age of 55. These planned communities have golf courses, club houses, workout facilities, week-end social gatherings, back-yard barbecue parties and more, all designed for people over 55.
• 11) Health problems. Physical ailments such as knee or back problems make it difficult for an aging population to climb stairs in a two-story, so a one-story home may be more practical. A trade-off solution for many elderly people who don't require round-the-clock care is to buy a condo or move into assisted living housing.
• 12) Deferred maintenance. Some people don't want to put on a new roof, replace the siding or buy a new furnace, so it's easier to buy a newer home. When you figure the life of most home systems is about 15 years, it could make sense to get out before everything goes haywire.
• 13) Home improvement perfection. A small segment enjoys fixing up and selling, spending time, money and effort on remodeling, and once the work is completed, these people become restless because there is nothing left to do. Some of you may call these people obsessed, but for some, it's a way to maintain balance while mastering a hobby.
• 14) Cash in equity. Some home owners can't stand the fact their home is worth all that money because that money is not in their pocket. These people would prefer to stare at their passbook savings than stare at four walls with empty pockets. They. Just. Want. The. Money.
• 15) Lifestyle change. Others are simply tired of owning a home and would prefer to travel, pursue a hobby or be less responsible. We used to call these people misfits or boomers, but many past a certain age want to find a calling that is meaningful to them. So, for these people, home ownership loses its priority status and turns into the ticket for realizing dreams.
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