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Average length of homeownership: Americans spend less than 15 years in one home

The average length of homeownership is eight years and the median tenure is 13.2 years.

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How many people do you know that have lived in their homes for 40, 50 or even 60 years? Perhaps your grandparents raised your parents, aunts and uncles all in the same house. This is becoming less common, as the average length of homeownership is eight years, though this figure is slowly increasing. In fact, the average person will own at least three houses in their lifetime.

Living in one place for most of your life may or may not be your goal, but if it is, there are things you must do as a homeowner to ensure your home lasts as long as you’d like it to. Insurance companies view neglected structures as liabilities and set rates accordingly. It’s important to do your due diligence as a homeowner to ensure your home is properly cared for to avoid higher premiums.

Key findings:

  • 65.6% of Americans are homeowners.
  • 47% of Americans have lived in their homes for six to 10 years.
  • 35% of homeowners have lived in their homes for 10 to 15 years.
  • 16% have lived in their homes for less than five years.
  • The average length of homeownership years is eight years.
  • The median homeowner tenure is 13.2 years, a three-year increase over the last decade.
  • California homeowners stay in their homes the longest.

Keep reading for a bigger picture of the average length of homeownership in the U.S. and tips for extending the lifespan of a house, or jump down to the infographic for a quick review.

 median-length-of-homeownership-over-time

Average length of homeownership in the U.S.

Most American residents live in their homes for less than 15 years. Forty-seven percent of homeowners reside in their homes between six and 10 years, and 35% live in their homes for 10-15 years. Although conventional mortgages are calculated for a 30-year repayment, few people are living in the same house for 30 years. 

The most recent average duration of homeownership was eight years while the median was 13.2 years in 2021 — an increase of about three years over the last decade. On average, homebuyers expect to live in their homes for 15 years after purchasing — an overestimation compared to the actual tenure. Additionally, 44% of buyers anticipate spending 16 years or more in their home, which we know is far off from how many people actually do.

Expected length of tenure in home after purchase (2021)

  All buyers 22-30 years old 31-40 years old 41-55 years old 56-65 years old 66-74 years old 75-95 years old
1 year or less 1% 1% 1% 1% 1% 1% 6%
2-3 years 5% 7% 5% 5% 5% 3% 5%
4-5 years 14% 26% 17% 11% 9% 6% 4%
6-7 years 4% 7% 4% 3% 2% 0% 2%
8-10 years 23% 27% 22% 22% 19% 20% 37%
11-15 years 9% 6% 7% 9% 8% 14% 15%
16+ years 44% 25% 44% 48% 55% 54% 27%
Not sure 1% 0% 0% 1% 1% 0% 3%
Median years 15 10 15 15 20 20 10

 

First-time buyers spend less time in their homes

The average age for buying a first home is 27 years old — a significant drop from 34 years old only a few years ago. First-time homebuyers typically fall outside of the norm when it comes to homebuying behaviors. Most first-time buyers keep their first starter home for only two to five years. In fact, 26% of 22- to 30-year-olds anticipate living in their homes for four or five years after purchasing, and 7% expect to stay for only two to three years.

Lower-income families remain in their homes longer

Lower-income families who rent or live with others typically move more frequently for reasons like finding more affordable or better-quality housing, adjusting to household size changes or relocating for employment. However, after achieving homeownership, the frequent moves slow down and low-income households exceed the average length of home tenure.

Top 25 metro areas with longest homeowner tenure

Metro

Median homeowner tenure in years (2021)

Median home sales price (2021)

Median household income (2020)

Los Angeles, CA

18.1 $835,000 $71,358
Honolulu, HI 17.4 $715,500 $87,722

Oxnard, CA

17 $805,000 $77,050
Anaheim, CA 16.9 $939,000 $76,723
Cleveland, OH 16.9 $180,000 $31,838
Dayton, OH 16.9 $175,000 $34,457
San Jose, CA 16.7 $1,365,250 $117,324
Oakland, CA 16.2 $876,000 $80,143
Wilmington, DE 16.2 $285,000 $45,139

Nassau County, NY

16.1 $575,000 $120,036
Memphis, TN 16 $275,050 $41,864
Detroit, MI 15.9 $172,000 $32,498

Miami, FL

15.8 $434,900 $44,268
Camden, NJ 15.6 $268,000 $28,623
Fresno, CA 15.6 $380,000 $53,368
Philadelphia, PA 15.6 $255,000 $49,127
Akron, OH 15.5 $179,900 $40,281
Frederick, MD 15.5 $495,000 $100,685
Chicago, IL 15.4 $287,000 $62,097
Newark, NJ 15.4 $460,000 $37,476
San Diego, CA 15.4 $770,000 $83,454
San Francisco, CA 15.4 $1,489,500 $119,136
Baltimore, MD 15.3 $325,000 $64,994
Montgomery County, PA 15.3 $383,750 $93,518
Pittsburgh, PA 15.3 $201,500 $50,536

 

How is the current market affecting homeownership?

Initially, the pandemic created the perfect environment for encouraging home transactions. With record-low mortgage rates and the rise of remote work, many Americans seized the opportunity to relocate and buy.

The consequences of the booming housing market have now brought rising home prices, high mortgage rates and inventory shortages. As a result, buying and selling began to slow. In turn, this may increase the average length of homeownership for future years. One out of seven people have no intentions of buying a new house, and 51% reported that they are satisfied with their current home.

 homeownership-plans-by-generation

How long should you live in a house before selling?

Real estate and financial experts recommend living in a house for at least five to seven years after closing. Whether you stay for that long is entirely up to your situation. However, it’s anticipated that a home will appreciate enough after five years that you can recoup some of the initial purchase costs and avoid negative equity.

Another reason to wait it out before selling is to avoid capital gains taxes, the levy a seller pays on selling their property (whether real estate, possessions, stocks, etc.). If you stay in your home for at least two years, you are not subject to capital gains taxes as long as the sale’s profit is less than $250,000 (for single individuals) or $500,000 (for married couples). Instead you would exclude the profit from that year’s taxable income. If the gains exceed the limits, you would be responsible for paying the difference.

When weighing selling or staying, also consider how long a house lasts and whether repair costs outweigh the benefits of buying a new home. For example, roofs typically need replacing about every 20 years, more or less. HVAC systems last about 15 years, and large appliances should last around 10. If you bought a new build or are the second owner of a home, these replacements and repairs may seem like they hit you all at once.

In most cases, repair costs will be less than a new home’s price tag, but if you’re already considering moving, it might make sense to invest these repair costs into a new property. Or, while you might not be thrilled about replacing a roof after only five years of living in a home, if you’re happy with your location, it may be worth renovating over moving.

 does-it-matter-when-you-sell-a-house-after-purchasing

Tips for extending the lifespan of a house

More than a third of houses in the U.S. are older than 50, with 5.65 million standing for over a century. With proper care and typical replacements, it’s proven that the lifespan of a house can outlast that 100-year mark.

For some people, the desire to remain in their home and lengthen their homeownership tenure outweighs the reasons for moving. If you’re in your forever home, there are a few things you should do to improve your home’s longevity. It starts with routine care and homeowners insurance.

 3-tips-for-extending-the-lifespan-of-a-house

 

Keep up with routine maintenance

While spending a weekend checking up on your home’s HVAC filters or cleaning out gutters might not be what you consider fun, it’s part of homeownership.

Routine maintenance on your appliances and outside structures (like roofs and windows) helps keep your home in tip-top shape to outlast wear and tear. Attend to any emergency issues, like leaky pipes or blocked chimneys, immediately to avoid major damage. 

Use this home maintenance checklist to guide your monthly, seasonal and annual upkeep.

Opt in for regular inspections

Part of homeowner maintenance should also include regular home inspections. Many people will have their home inspected when purchasing it but often won’t again until a surprise issue arises. Sticking to a regular inspection schedule puts your home in a position to avoid extensive problems and your bank account to prepare for replacements. 

Some home inspectors recommend professional inspections every three to five years. Inspectors should analyze the soundness of your home’s overall structure as well as electrical wiring and plumbing. 

However, as part of routine home maintenance, it’s wise to look over some areas of your home annually. For example, if you live in a snowy region, you should check for roof damage every spring.

Revisit your homeowners insurance

Each year you should set time aside to review your homeowners insurance policy to ensure there are no gaps in your coverage. This is also a good time to catalog and add any new possessions or home upgrades to your personal property coverage.

Homeowners insurance may not directly correlate to increasing your home’s lifespan, but it can help you with the costs associated with repairing damages to your home. It’s important to note that the average homeowners insurance policy does not cover all damages or property losses. A few of the most common perils covered are:

  • Fire or smoke damage
  • Theft or vandalism 
  • Damage from the weight of snow or ice
  • Falling objects (like a tree or telephone pole)
  • Frozen pipes
  • Water damage from plumbing or HVAC issues
  • Riots

The average length of homeownership is slowly increasing, and if you, too, don’t plan to move any time soon, it’s time to prioritize proper home maintenance. Homeowners insurance is there to help you if you need it. Don’t hesitate to file a claim if you need to, or contact one of The Zebra’s agents if you’re unsure about what damages or loss your policy covers.

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Susan MeyerSenior Editorial Manager

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebra a year. She currently specializes in producing research-focused content for The Zebra's Resource Center on topics related to auto and home insurance, personal finance and smarter living in the 21st century.

Susan's work has been cited by the Insurance Information Institute, State Farm, BuzzfeedCBS, Yahoo, Entrepreneur and Business Insider.