There are significant dynamic shifts affecting housing in the U.S. The average age to own a first home has risen sharply in the past decade. In 2014, multi-family housing starts grew at nearly double the projected rate, while single-family homes starts fell short of forecasts. There are whispers (and some shouts) that owning a home is no longer part of the American Dream. These facts and theories have led SFW to launch a landmark study to understand the current landscape of U.S. householders.

As an insights-based agency with deep experience connecting the American consumer to the brands they bring into their homes, we are highly attuned to changes in home ownership in the past decade. Our forthcoming research will help us—and those we serve—understand how movement in the demographic and psychographic makeup of the U.S. householder is affecting consumer behavior.

While the research and analysis is underway, we thought it would be valuable to share some of the hypotheses that led us to invest in this research. Identifying these segments will equip SFW with powerful insights that we will be sharing in the speaker circuit and through our blog this year. Below is a preview of what we may be quantifying about today’s composition of householders.

Our hypotheses include:

  • Millennial householders define themselves less by what type of dwelling they live in and more by where it’s located.
  • The younger the householder, the more likely spending on the home is motivated around adding small elements of personal style, rather than to add value to an investment. This holds true even though this younger generation has more potential longevity in their home. (A paradox may exist.)
  • Many homeowners buy a house without intentions of renovating or tackling significant home improvements, but end up creating significant projects for themselves—indicative of latent demand for spending mounting with the recovering housing market.
  • Duration in the home is correlated with spending. Recent homeowners who’ve moved spend more, as do homeowners who plan to sell in the near future.
  • Many renters would prefer to own a home, but inadequate incomes are keeping them in the rental market.
  • Some segments of householders have no plans to ever buy a home or don’t plan to buy again, and their lifetime spending behavior on their home will fall well short of owners.
  • Motivations to undertake home improvement projects will vary by segment. Some create projects and tackle as much as they can without hired help, driven by satisfaction and/or cost savings factors. Others seek out projects, but leave all the work up to the pros. Household income is only loosely related to how projects get done.
  • The more location matters, the less engaged householders are with their homes. Proximity to place of work, shopping and entertainment is particularly important to Millennials.

What will hold true and what won’t? Stay tuned to our Insights posts as we reveal future findings.