Homeownership rate near five-year high as Gen-X returns

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The U.S. homeownership rate rose to the highest level since 2014, led by a growing share of buyers in their mid-30s and early 40s.

The rate for Americans age 35 to 44 rose to 61.1% in the fourth quarter from 58.9% a year earlier, according to Census Bureau data released Thursday. For buyers under age 35, the share was 36.5%, up from 36%.

The increase signals that some older millennials are spreading out as they start families, and young Generation-Xers are coming back to homeownership after losing properties in the last decade's real estate crash. The number of owner-occupied households jumped to 1.7 million, the second-most since 2005, the data show. The gain was bigger in the second quarter of last year.

The population of millennials in prime home buying age is growing, and slightly older buyers with credit damaged by the crash are now more able to qualify for a mortgage, said Ralph McLaughlin, deputy chief economist from CoreLogic Inc.

The census data suggest "the appetite for homeownership rests in the more-affordable segment of the housing market," McLaughlin said in an interview. "The demographic structure is going to support healthy demand at the mid- to low range of the housing market."

The homeownership rate for all Americans was 64.8%, up from 64.2% a year earlier and the highest since the first quarter of 2014.

Bloomberg News
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