The Average Homeownership Duration Continues To Increase

Between 2000 – 2009, the average homeownership duration was only about four-to-five years. It was too short to build real wealth. As of 2023, the average homeownership tenure has risen to roughly 13 years according to First American Data & Analytics and Redfin.

Post-pandemic, people are simply owning their homes for longer because we're utilizing our homes more. Further, more people are investing in real estate for passive income and their retirement needs.

According to the US Census Bureau, only 37 percent of Americans have lived in their homes for more than 10 years. This is unfortunate, because in order to generate real wealth from real estate, you need to own your property for as long as possible.

The Average U.S. Homeownership Duration

Take a look at the chart below that shows the average U.S. homeownership tenure in years. According to ATTOM Data Solutions, as of Q22020, the average is around eight years. This is a big increase of only four years between 2000 – 2009.

Average homeownership duration

However, if you look at the latest data in 2022 for 2021 from Redfin, the MEDIAN homeownership tenure in America is closer to 13 years. It’s interesting how the median homeownership tenure is much longer than the average. The one clear trend is that the average and median homeownership tenures are going up.

Average homeowner tenure is roughly 13 years

Why Is The Average Homeownership Tenure Going Up?

The reason why the average U.S. homeownership tenure has increased is because Americans have wisened up to the fact that longer homeownership tenure is better for our finances.

It costs a lot to sell a home. All the taxes and fees can easily take out 6-10% from the value of the home. It's much better to let your investment compound in value over time without a tax event.

Further, once the 2008-2009 housing crisis hit, U.S. homeowners stayed put longer because it also became harder to take out a mortgage. Lending standards tightened up and Americans were forced to be happy with the homes they already had.

As the economy and home equity recovered, Americans remained disciplined and continued to live in their homes for longer. As a result, the homeownership tenure continued to increase.

Average Homeownership Duration Post-Pandemic

When the pandemic hit the U.S. in March 2020, most Americans decided to keep their homes for longer. Who wants to move during a pandemic and risk getting sick? As a result, inventory plummeted and home prices ironically shot up.

Meanwhile, the desire to own a home and stay in a home is even greater than ever before. We are all spending more time at home working from home and homeschooling more of our children. Now that the pandemic is receding, we are slow to go back to our old ways. Further, more people have decided to buy larger homes.

The intrinsic value of a home has gone way up. How could it not if we are now spending 20% – 40% more time at home than we were pre-pandemic? The housing market will likely boom for years to come as there is a structural demand and supply shift.

Average Homeownership Tenure For Top 25 Metro Areas

Below is more data that show the average homeownership duration for the top 25 metro areas in America as of April 2021. The more expensive the metro area, the longer the average tenure.

Given California has Proposition 13, where property tax increases are limited, homeowners are incentivized to hold for longer. Many Californian homes bought decades ago are now worth tremendous amounts. However, their homeowners pay a lower absolute property tax amount than new buyers of much smaller homes.

Average home tenure length is over 10.5 years

Why I Was Considering Selling

Back in 2012, I was considering selling a San Francisco house I bought in 2005. I tried, but couldn't find any buyers! As a result, I refinanced the mortgage before negotiating a large severance, lowered my payment by 30%, and left Corporate America for good. Further, home prices have skyrocketed since.

It was only in 2017, 12 years after I bought the house, did I finally sell the property. I did so because the property had appreciated by over $1 million since 2012 and I wanted to spend more time being a first-time father.

If I didn't have a son in 2017, I probably would have held onto my rental property today. Given interest rates have plummeted, the value of rental properties has gone way up because the value of rental income has gone way up.

I used $500,000 of the $1,800,000 in proceeds after paying off my mortgage and fees and invested it in real estate crowdfunding. My goal was to earn the same amount of cash flow as my rental ($60,000/year), but with $2,240,000 less exposure.

My favorite real estate crowdfunding platform is Fundrise. Fundrise has created diversified real estate funds the generates 100% passive income to investors. Its historical performance has been quite steady, especially during down years in the S&P 500. Fundrise is free to sign up and explore.

Another area of opportunity, if you have the energy and time, is to buy more rental properties. It now takes a lot more capital to generate the same amount of risk-adjusted income. However, the value of rental properties haven't gone up nearly as much.

As a father of two young kids under four, I've got my hands full to buy more physical rental properties. However, I do recommend everybody keep their eyes open for any good rental property deals.

Average Homeowner Tenure Should Continue To Go Up

Now with mortgage rates rapidly increasing in 2022 and beyond, the average homeowner tenure should continue to increase.

Based on the percentage of mortgages by interest rates, over 92% of homeowners with a mortgage have locked in rates below 5%. As a result, even fewer homeowners will be willing to move and sell.

Personally, I plan to own my existing home for well over 10 years because it is our forever home. And if I happen to gain a lot of wealth in 10 years, I will simply rent out our existing home and buy another home.

More people are realizing the power of investing in real estate. As a result, more people are holding on for longer and buying more homes.

Refinance Your Mortgage

It is nuts how low interest rates have gone. It's cheaper for me to live in a nicer single family home today than it was back in 2005 thanks to lower mortgage rates.

I bought a home in 2020 with a 7/1 ARM at only 2.125% with minimal fees. Back in 2005, I had a 5/1 ARM with a 4.25% mortgage rate.

Unfortunately, mortgage rates shot up due to inflation and Fed rate hikes. However, I suspect mortgage rates will go back down again as inflation cools. I have no regrets getting an ARM despite mortgage rates going up.

More People Are Investing In Real Estate For The Long-Term

The median and average homeownership duration in America should continue to increase. Americans value their homes more today because we're spending more time at home. Further, more Americans are investing more in real estate for their retirement.

Personally, I've invested $810,000 in real estate crowdfunding to generate more passive income. I own three rental properties in San Francisco which I plan to hold forever. Further, I want to invest in lower-cost areas that have the potential to be the next boom city. So far, I own a fund and 14 individual investments left.

These are my two favorite real estate crowdfunding platforms. Both are free to sign up and explore. 

Fundrise: A way for accredited and non-accredited investors to diversify into real estate through private eFunds. Fundrise has been around since 2012 and has consistently generated steady returns, no matter what the stock market is doing. For most people, investing in a diversified eREIT is the easiest way to gain real estate exposure. 

CrowdStreet: A way for accredited investors to invest in individual real estate opportunities mostly in 18-hour cities. 18-hour cities are secondary cities with lower valuations, higher rental yields, and potentially higher growth due to job growth and demographic trends. If you have a lot more capital, you can build you own diversified real estate portfolio. 

It wouldn't surprise me if the average homeownership duration rises by several more years by the year 2030. More people are going to own their homes forever, which will drive down inventory and drive up prices. Hold onto your homes for as long as possible and prosper.

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44 thoughts on “The Average Homeownership Duration Continues To Increase”

  1. Simple answer to your comment “I’m not sure why there’s such a big discrepancy” = you’re comparing Average (Mean) data from Attom with Median data from Redfin

    1. Bingo! It is interesting how the median is much higher than the average if they are looking at the same data set. We are used to seeing how much higher average net worth than median net worth.

      1. Katie Kormanik

        I wonder if the lower average is due to a growing cluster of folks who buy and sell in a short amount of time (i.e., the flippers!). Do you know if this data includes those people as well?

  2. As a San Diego, CA REALTOR* I have seen people in San Diego, CA build equity in less than 2 years and wealth within 8 years. As the grandson and son of REALTORS* and Buy & Hold Investors, I have lived it and witnessed it my entire life.
    My family did build wealth. I have built it. My “average” clients have.
    I also, I’ve kept my homes on average for 14 years, not 4 years.
    Most of my non-military clients have for at least 8-12 years.
    I take issue with the 4 year stat for non-military owners, very few of my non-military clients sold within 4 years of purchase. Closer to a 6.5 year average in my book of business.

  3. We have owned for 2.5 years, and really hope to make it to the 10-year mark. the problem is we have a 3-bedroom, and plan on 3+ kids, so we might outgrow it sooner than that. I guess bunk beds it is!

    But really, I want to have some decent equity in 10 years, and either buy and rent our current home, or sell and drop a large down payment to free up more monthly cashflow. But as you stated, holding longer causes more stability and a better chance of coming out ahead, so the buy and rent option seems much better. I need to reverse engineer how much cash I need ot make that happen….

    1. If you sell in 5 years, or under 10 years, it’s hard to build some “decent equity” Jacob.

      Yes, go with bunk beds! Run the costs for a 4 or 5 bedroom house……………….

  4. I’m trying to convince my mother not to sell her house yet. There’s so much work that needs to be done and there are way too many houses on the market in her neighborhood right now. Hopefully she will be patient to wait a few more years.

  5. Hey Sam, that’s so cool that you are planning on buying and settling in Hawaii, cause that’s my dream too, there’s so many that make “landlording” a part of their retirement plan and we hope to get there sooner rather than later. We lived in Hawaii, and moved because of cost of living to Salt Lake City. We bought our home just this year in January and got a 15 year loan, our mortgage officer said that we were the only young couple she’d taken care of that was doing a 15 year. We are very happy with the rate and hope to pay it off a lot earlier and invest some capital to be used to buy my in-law’s house in Hawaii, since it’s close to the university we would have a steady influx of tenants. With buying and selling real estate I hear that you can shave thousands if not tens of thousands on a more expensive property when doing a private sale or “for sale by owner.”

  6. Second Part:
    Don’t sell your house Evan. You don’t need something bigger. Think about all the starving people in Somalia!

    Guess you can say that about everything…why have a smart phone for example you could donate the dollar difference and just get a prepaid? Why eat at an expensive restaurant? etc.

  7. Good point, Sam. With the upside down nature of PMI calculations, you really don’t start putting a good dent in your mortgage principal until you are 1/3 to 1/2 of the way through your mortgage term. We recently refinanced down from a 30 to a 20 with a much lower rate, but we had to run the numbers to make sure that we were still coming out ahead, considering the fact that we had already been paying for 8 years..

  8. Good stuff Thomas. The transaction costs are killer, making it not worth moving imo after just 5 years. Maybe 10 years…. but before then, it just seems unwise to change if you don’t have to.

  9. I have owned my house for 5 years and exactly 2 months (closed on June 13, 2007 lol). I would love to keep it and rent it out but deed restrictions prevent that so its on the market.

    If San Fran is that hot and the housing market is still struggling by most accounts…imagine what the rest of the country is doing!

    1. Does that mean the rest of the country is also doing pretty well then and recovering?

      Don’t sell your house Evan. You don’t need something bigger. Think about all the starving people in Somalia!

        1. The Case Shiller Index for “San Francisco” includes three or four counties totally unrelated to SF that are 1 hour drives away. All real estate is local.

          The media and academics love misery, whether for renters or buyers.

  10. I own my home for 7 years. It’s almost 10,000 sq. ft. including basement. My wife and I are seriously thinking to sell this as it is too big for two of us. So, it makes sense to keep house for a long time, I am not sure it makes sense in our case. I also think that most Americans move where they can find better opportunities. It’s hard to find employee who can work for a company and retire anymore.

  11. I have lived in my current home for 15 years. I will probably move one more time to a single level location sometime in the future. I am not sure when, but it will be when my wife and I cannot go up and down the stairs.

    The average stay in a home surprises me because it reminds me when the market was better and people were more mobile. It is harder to sell a home unless it is priced right in most markets.

    1. Do you feel your knees giving out a little now Larry? I worry about this since I am a tennis player and tennis is very hard on the knees.

      One story track homes sound good, or just one level higher.

  12. This post was not written to convince people to own. This post is written to encourage homeowners to owner their home for longer to build wealth.

    Renting doesn’t build wealth for the renter, so that is a separate issue.

    1. Not as much as if the homeowner owns for 40 years. Hence, my point. The homeownership median duration is too short to build real wealth.

      Where did you get 4 years from? It’s really about looking long term. I’m thankful that after 10 years renting out the place, the principal is down about 35% and the cash flow is very positive now. It just takes time.

  13. We actually bought our house with the plan of living in it for the long haul, at least the next 20 years or so. We are looking at adding an addition but we plan on staying here. We love the area and our house and we don’t want to give that up. Plus we are looking forward to having it paid off and a liquid asset.

  14. You can move for a job even with owning a home. You never have to sell..EVER!
    If you don’t believe me, look at Krystal (GMBMFB) who moved to Europe for a year on a whim, and didn’t sell, nor did she rent out her home.

  15. I’ve lived in my current condo almost 5 years now, and I’m debating to continue living for another 2-3 years. Ideally I wouldn’t want to sell my condo, but flip the remaining mortgage balance into a LOC (more flexibility), rent out the condo (hope for someone to pay it off), and buy a town home with a down-payment of cash/equity from condo.

    What are the housing prices in Hawaii? Renters or buyers market?

  16. Kim@Eyesonthedollar

    We sold our first home after 3 years. It was a fixer, and we knew we wouldn’t be there long. We did make enough money from the sale to put down a good chunk on our dream house. We have been her 8.5 years, and have no plans to move any time soon. We have enough equity in our house now that we were able to purchase an investment property. It is tempting sometimes to consider selling this house because we could be debt free, but like you said, you gotta live somewhere, and we love it here. Only regret is not keeping that first house as a rental. It would be paid off now and a good cash flow. Just couldn’t get our heads around it at the time. If only there had been PF blogs then!

  17. Well, I guess it depends upon a few things.
    1) Did you anticipate a change in family size that may require more living space?
    2) Are you able to keep a steady stream of income that covers the mortgage/rent where you live?
    3) Did you perform some analysis on what the area is like now compared to say 5-10 years ago? Speaking in terms of demographic information like median income in the area, population changes, school systems (if children are in your family), etc.
    4) Will the maintenance be an issue in the coming years? This is both from a physical size of the house and age of the house and the equipment inside it.

    The funny thing is that my wife and I did all those (although we just saw where things appeared to be going for the next 10+ years pretty accurately), which is why we’re still in the house for the past 12 years.
    Did we luck out? Yes, but we did a lot of research into finding exactly what we wanted (and have today).

    1. I don’t think you lucked out AT ALL.

      Who doesn’t ask these questions and do such thorough research before taking on the biggest asset and liability of their lives? It would be irrational not to anticipate multi-variable changes and have buffers.

      Of course, some things we cannot predict, such as the financial Armageddon. Life happens always, but I’m surprised the median homeownership is this low with transaction costs so high.

      Perhaps it’s like going out with someone for 1-2 months and breaking up, where 1 month = 3 house years? Just seems strange.

  18. Are you planning on buying a home in Hawaii? (or do you have on already). If you plan on waiting to buy, wouldn’t it kind of be a wash (selling and buying at the higher value or selling and buying at the lower, current market).

    1. Indeed that would be a wash if I only had one property to buy or sell, since we all need to live somewhere.

      However, that’s not the case with me. Hawaii is actually around 30% cheaper than San Francisco like for like. Also, I have a house in Hawaii already, just waiting to be occupied!

      1. Wow – Hawaii would be about 30% cheaper for me than too. ;) That’s awesome. I’m glad you will be able to enjoy it. Island life is definitely unique.

  19. One of my siblings just sold her house after living in it for about 4 years. Not only did she not make any money upon selling, she actually had to show up to the closing table with many thousands of dollars. They did this to upgrade to a bigger house and start yet another 30 year mortgage over.

      1. Because they are on a neverending quest to have the biggest and best everything without ever actually owning anything! Duh! Plus, they are in their late 40’s and want to have a mortgage until they are almost 70. Makes perfect sense.

  20. I think people tend to upgrade a lot but they also move more often now for job opportunities. I think the lesson to be learned is unless you are in a stable part of your life where you won’t be transferring or switching jobs you probably shouldn’t buy a house.

    1. I agree 100%. Know where you want to be for 10 years, and have a high conviction level that you plan to stick around at your job for 5 years, and if needed, change jobs in your SAME area for the following 5 years!

  21. Hi Sam,

    I’d wager that people are either needing to move for a new job or need more space as their family grows.

    My wife and I have been in our place for about 6 years and once children come into the picture we will need a larger space… I guess when your grandparents bought they had enough space to handle a growing family…


    1. I agree with Mike. It seems like different life changes account for people to move, more kids, in-laws move in, lost job….whatever. My husband has had our place for 9 years, we have no intention to move or sell, just to pay off next year.

  22. Buy and hold still works with a house. :) We’ve lived in ours for 8 years now, with no plans to sell.

    Here’s a fact people often overlook: you have to live somewhere. That means if you sell your house, you’re going to have to buy another one, unless you make the strategic move to rent.

    The only time it makes sense to go from owning to renting (from a financial viewpoint only) is when you judge that the housing market (which is cyclical) is nearing a peak. At that point it might pay to sell the house, rent for a year or two until the next recession cuts home prices. Then you buy back your house (or one like it) for less.

    If you want to trade up, the time it makes most sense is in the recession, when the difference between the two houses is at its smallest. If you want to trade down (empty nesters, for example) then the best time to do that is near the top of the market, when the gap is at its greatest.

    Do you plan to rent when you get to Hawaii?

    1. Glad you have no plans to sell! My next article will encourage all homeowners to go on strike to lower the ridiculous commission fees charged for selling.

      We are a long way from a cyclical peak. But, as my grandparents have demonstrated, after 40 years wow……. everything goes up.

      I don’t plan to rent in Hawaii.

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