According to a new report, Americans are keeping their homes twice as long as they were 20 years ago, and older generations are finding less motivation to sell and move.

The average U.S. homeowner has spent just under 12 years in their home, up from 6 1/2 years two decades ago, according to real estate brokerage Redfin. While the length of time homeowners stay in place has declined from a nearly 14-year peak in 2020, many incentives motivating people to move have flattened since then.

Other economic indicators suggest the same: Sales of existing homes in the United States hit a 30-year low last year, according to the National Association of Realtors, as homeowners remained locked into their lowest mortgage rates.

The trend was most prevalent among baby boomers, many of whom are retiring as rates and home prices remain high. The lock-in effect is geographically widespread: Only a handful of affordable metropolitan areas see their housing change hands after just seven years.

“The lock-in effect is… a major issue among people who say they want to stay home longer than expected,” Mark Palim, vice president and deputy chief economist at Fannie Mae, told Yahoo Finance. “We’re not sure there’s a magic tipping point; we think it’s more than the passage of time and the rates themselves.”

Read more: Mortgage rates hover around 7%: is this a good time to buy a home?

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Nearly half of boomers live in their homes for 20 years

Most baby boomers haven’t moved for decades, and that won’t change anytime soon.

Nearly 40% of those born between 1946 and 1964 have lived in their homes for at least 20 years. Another 16% have been in their properties for 10 to 19 years, Redfin found.

For Generation X, more than a third have lived in the same home for at least 10 years.

By comparison, millennials stayed home for shorter periods, largely because they were more likely to change jobs or have growing families than previous generations.

According to Redfin, less than 7% of millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) have lived in their home for 10 years or more, and 30% have lived in their home for less than five years.

“Longer tenures of homeownership, particularly among baby boomers, are a barrier to young first-time buyers trying to enter the market,” the report reads.

Overall, nearly 80% of baby boomers and 72% of Gen X own their homes, Redfin found, compared to 55% of millennials and 26% of Gen Z.

That imbalance means that younger generations trying to enter the market find virtually no existing housing inventory at affordable prices.

A separate Redfin analysis found that empty-nester baby boomers own 3 in 10 large homes in the U.S., twice as many as millennials with children.

Many millennials who did not own homes rented or lived with their parents, further evidence of the control that older generations maintain over their homes.

“Americans are simply becoming renters, especially the younger generations, as they simply move as renters from one place to another,” Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, told reporters this week.

Read more: First-time homebuyer in 2024: What you need to know

Why won’t boomers leave home?

Boomers won’t be moving anytime soon because they have no reason to.

About 54% of boomers who own their homes do not have a mortgage, meaning they own their property free and clear. The median monthly cost of owning a home for that group, including insurance and property taxes, averaged $612 in January 2024.

As for boomers who do have a mortgage, almost all of them have a low interest rate compared to the current rate of around 7%. Additionally, some state tax systems benefit people who stay in their homes longer, Redfin noted.

For example, in Texas, homeowners over age 65 can defer property taxes until the home is sold. California severely limits annual property tax increases.

“Boomers don’t have much motivation to sell, financially or otherwise,” Redfin senior economist Sheharyar Bokhari wrote in the study. “They generally have low housing costs, and most boomers are in their early 60s, still young enough to be able to take care of themselves and their home without help.”

A homeowner tours his new home in Washingtonville, New York (Credit: John Minchillo, AP Photo)

A homeowner tours his new home in Washingtonville, New York (Credit: John Minchillo, AP Photo) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Having a fixed income combined with stricter credit standards could be another factor driving boomers to choose to age in place.

The median price of a used home was $379,100 in January, a record, the NAR reported Thursday. The move outpaced wage growth for the first time in 14 months, hurting not only affordability for first-time buyers but also potential repeat buyers.

“From my perspective, I would put fixed income in the broader category of not being able to afford to move or not being able to find any good affordable options to move into,” Daryl Fairweather, chief economist at Redfin, told Yahoo Finance. “At the end of the day, it all leads to housing affordability.”

Where people stay still

Homeowners across the country are choosing to stay in their homes longer, but the West Coast led this trend.

The average homeowner in Los Angeles has lived in their home for almost 19 years, followed by almost 18 years in San Jose, California. This was followed by Cleveland, Ohio (nearly 18), San Francisco (nearly 17), and Memphis, Tennessee. (16-½). Californians had a greater incentive not to move, in part because state law prevents property tax assessments from increasing significantly for existing homeowners.

The areas that experienced the highest housing turnover were affordable metropolitan areas, primarily in the south.

Homeowners kept their homes for the shortest periods in Louisville, Kentucky (just over seven years), and for only eight years in Las Vegas. Next were Nashville, Tennessee, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Raleigh, North Carolina, each of which had an average tenure of eight and a half years.

“We expect homeowner tenure to remain stable or increase slightly for the foreseeable future,” Redfin researchers wrote. “Although sales should increase a little this year, it will be more of a trickle than a flood.”

Gabriella Cruz Martínez is a personal finance and housing reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on X @__gabriellacruz.

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