Is marriage becoming less of a prerequisite to a mortgage?

by MPA06 Jan 2015
Many U.S. commenters have pointed to declines in the share of married people as a major contributing factor to the decrease in homeownership. However, the upcoming generation is no longer viewing marriage as a prerequisite to a mortgage, as they show some signs of committing to a house before a marriage, according to research from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.

"These key life-stage things impact when we buy, what we buy and where we buy," Mollie Carmichael, a principal at John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Irvine, told the Los Angeles Times. "But ... young people today aren't living by the same rules as 20 or 30 years ago."

Unmarried couples, same-sex partners, even pairs of roommates are making up a larger part of the housing market than they did a generation ago, according to Rachel Drew, a researcher at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

While married couples continue to own homes at higher rates than unmarried individuals, there is more to the relationship. “Only recently have shares of married couples and shares of home-owning households both been declining, due mostly to economic factors, while vast majorities of the population still aspire to both marriage and homeownership,” she added.

However, while unmarried couples may be showing more willingness to buy, some see marriage as still a key driver to home ownership.

"It's a pretty straightforward link," Richard Green, director of USC's Lusk Center for Real Estate told the Los Angeles Times. “Married people buy houses. Single people rent."

For example, in California, 48.7% of households were headed by married couples in 2013, down from 51.1% in 2000, according to Census data. But more than two-thirds of married couples owned their homes compared to 40% of non-married households.