Empty Nesters Own Twice As Many Large Homes As Millennials With Kids

By Published On: January 16th, 20249.9 min read
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  • Empty-nest baby boomers own 28% of the nation’s large homes, while millennials with kids own just 14%. 
  • Empty nesters take up a lot of large homes because affordability was better when they were young, and there’s no financial incentive to sell now: Most boomers own their homes free and clear, and most who have a mortgage have a low rate. 
  • The landscape has transformed over the last decade: 10 years ago, young families were just as likely as empty nesters to own large homes. 
  • Empty nesters take up at least 20% of large homes everywhere in the U.S.
  • Millennials with kids take up less than 18% of large homes no matter where they live. They own the biggest share in the Midwest and the smallest share in coastal California. 

Empty-nest baby boomers own nearly 3 in 10 (28.2%) large U.S. homes. That’s twice as many as millennials with kids, who own just 14.2% of the country’s large homes. Gen Zers with kids own almost none (0.3%) of them. 

An additional 7.5% of the country’s large homes are owned by baby boomers with households of three adults or more; this category likely consists mostly of adult children living with their boomer parents.

This is based on a Redfin analysis of U.S. Census data from 2022 (the most recent year for which data is available) that breaks down the share of three-bedroom-plus homes owned and occupied by each generation, by household type and size. The three household types are as follows: 1 or 2 adults total living in the home; neither are minor children (for boomers, we refer to this category as “empty nesters”), 3 or more adults total living in the home; none are minor children, and households where adults are living with their minor children. Redfin also broke down the share of three-bedroom-plus homes rented by each generation; that information is below. Adult Gen Zers were 19-25 years old in 2022, millennials were 26-41, Gen Xers were 42-57, and baby boomers were 58-76. See the end of this report for more details on methodology.

It’s worth noting that even though millennials with kids own half as many large homes as empty nesters, there are more millennials than baby boomers. Millennials make up roughly 28% of the country’s adult population, the largest share of any generation. They’re followed by baby boomers (27%), Gen Xers (25%) and Gen Zers (12%). 

Baby boomers own an outsized share of large homes for several reasons, current and historical:

  • There’s not much financial incentive to let go of large homes. Most (54%) of boomers who own homes have no mortgage; they own them free and clear. For that group, the median monthly cost of owning a home, which includes insurance and property taxes, among other costs, is just $612. For the boomers who do have a mortgage, nearly all have a much lower interest rate than they would if they sold and bought a different home with today’s near-7% rates: Even if they downsized, they may have a nearly identical monthly payment. 
  • For millennials and Gen Zers, it’s harder to find and afford a home. Large homes are in short supply. A few reasons for that: The mortgage-rate lock-in effect and a recent lack of homebuilding. Large homes are also hard to afford: 2023 was the least affordable homebuying year on record; it was especially hard for younger Americans who don’t have equity from a prior home, and the bigger the home, the more expensive it generally is. (The good news is that affordability should improve in 2024.)
  • Some young Americans don’t want to own a home. A recent Redfin survey found that 12% of millennials who believe they’ll never own a home just aren’t interested in homeownership, and 7% said they don’t plan to buy because they don’t want to maintain a home. Some young people may also prefer living in cities, within walking distance of things like restaurants and theaters, a lifestyle that doesn’t typically come with large homes. 
  • Boomers built wealth. Many older Americans benefited from an abundance of newly built homes and favorable economic conditions during their prime moneymaking years. Many baby boomers were at the height of their careers during the 1990s economic boom, allowing them to build wealth and buy big homes. Those homes proved to be good investments: Home values have grown four times faster than incomes over the last several decades. Today, boomers hold half of the wealth in the U.S., and much of it is in real estate. Americans who bought their homes more than 20 years ago didn’t have to spend as big of a portion of their incomes on housing as those–like millennials–who are buying today. 
  • Boomers are older, so they’ve had more time to buy homes. 

“There’s unlikely to be a flood of large homes hitting the market anytime soon,” said Redfin Senior Economist Sheharyar Bokhari. “Logically, empty nesters are the most likely group to sell big homes and downsize: They no longer have children living at home and don’t need as much space. The problem for younger families who wish their parents’ generation would list their big homes: Boomers don’t have much motivation to sell, financially or otherwise. They typically have low housing costs, and the bulk of boomers are only in their 60s, still young enough that they can take care of themselves and their home without help. Still, some boomers are ready to downsize into a condo or move somewhere new for retirement, and the mortgage-rate lock-in effect is starting to ease–so even though there won’t be a flood of inventory, there will be a trickle.”

Many young families are renting large homes in the meantime. Millennials with kids take up one-quarter (24.8%) of the three-bedroom-plus rentals in the U.S., the largest share of any generational category, followed by millennials without kids (11.6%). Empty-nest baby boomers take up the next-highest-share (11.4%) of three-bedroom-plus rentals.

Young first-time buyers who want a relatively large home should consider new construction, Bokhari said. Almost all newly built homes have three bedrooms or more, and there are a fair amount of them on the market as builders try to get rid of surplus homes they started building at the height of the pandemic buying boom. Some builders are even offering incentives like mortgage-rate buydowns or free upgrades to get new homes off their books. 

45% of empty nesters own big homes, almost double the share of millennials with kids

We discussed the share of large homes owned by each generation and household type above. In this section, we’ll discuss the share of each generation and household type that owns large homes. 

Empty-nest baby boomers are almost twice as likely as millennial families to own three-bedroom-plus homes. Nearly half (45.5%) ) of one-to-two-person boomer households own large homes. Just over one-quarter (27%) of households consisting of millennials with kids own large homes, and roughly 3% of Gen Zers with kids own them. 

What type of home do the rest of millennials with kids live in?

Some young families rent large homes: Roughly 1 in 10 (9.3%)  millennial-with-kid households live in three-bedroom-plus rentals. Others rent smaller units. 

Other millennials live with family or roommates. Of all U.S. millennials (whether they have kids or not), roughly 17% of them live with a family member in a home that family member owns or rents–most likely their parents. Another 10% live in a home owned or rented by someone they’re not related to–most likely a roommate. Seven in 10 are the head of their own household, whether they’re owning or renting. 

Older Americans own a much bigger share of large homes than they did 10 years ago, and young families own a smaller share

Who owns large homes has changed over the last decade. In 2012, empty nesters of the silent generation (who were 67-84 at the time) took up 16% of three-bedroom-plus homes. That’s a smaller share than Gen Xers (who were 32-47 at the time) with kids, who took up 19% of those large homes. 

But one thing has remained the same over time: Baby boomers with no kids living at home take up the lion’s share of big houses. In 2012, empty-nest boomers (who were then 48-66) owned and occupied 26.4% of three-bedroom-plus homes in the U.S., comparable to today’s share. 

Empty nesters take up at least 20% of large homes everywhere in the U.S.

Empty-nest baby boomers take up the biggest share of large homes in relatively affordable Rust Belt and southern metros. Baby boomers with one or two people in the household take up roughly one-third of three-bedroom-plus homes in Pittsburgh, PA (32.1%), Birmingham, AL (31.1%) and Cleveland, OH (30.8%), the highest shares in the nation. Next come Buffalo, NY (30.5%) and Virginia Beach, VA (30.4%). Demographics are one reason why Pittsburgh tops this list; the metro skews older: Baby boomers make up 40% of Pittsburgh’s households, a far higher share than Gen Xers (27%) or millennials (20%). 

Empty nesters own at least 20% of large homes everywhere in the country. They take up the smallest share of three-bedroom-plus homes in popular migration destinations and California metros: Riverside, CA (21.9%), Salt Lake City, UT (22%), Austin, TX (22.2%), Houston (23.2%)and San Jose, CA (23.7%). 

No matter the metro, millennials with kids take up no more than 18% of three-bedroom-plus homes

Young families take up the smallest share of large homes in coastal California and Florida, where large homes tend to be more expensive, and the largest share in relatively affordable inland metros–but nowhere do millennials with kids take up more than 18% of them. 

Just about one of every 10 three-bedroom-plus homes are owned and occupied by millennials with kids in Los Angeles (9.4%), San Jose, CA (10.4%), San Francisco (10.9%), Miami (11.2%) and New York (11.8%). ) Millennials with kids have the largest share in Indianapolis, IN (17.6%), Minneapolis (17.4%), Cincinnati, OH (17%), Kansas City, MO (16.5%) and Riverside, CA (16.5%). 

Metro-level summary: Share of large homes owned & occupied by each generation, by household type (2022)

50 most populous U.S. metros (core-based statistical areas)

Large homes: Three bedrooms plus 

Empty nesters: Baby boomers with 1-2 people total living in the household 

Share of large homes owned by empty nesters Share of large homes owned by millennials with kids
Atlanta, GA 25.5% 13.8%
Austin, TX 22.2% 15.5%
Baltimore, MD 27.5% 13.3%
Birmingham, AL 31.1% 15.3%
Boston, MA 25.0% 12.5%
Buffalo, NY 30.5% 14.1%
Charlotte, NC 26.5% 13.5%
Chicago, IL 24.7% 14.6%
Cincinnati, OH 28.6% 17.0%
Cleveland, OH 30.8% 12.9%
Columbus, OH 27.0% 16.3%
Dallas, TX 23.9% 15.8%
Denver, CO 25.0% 15.1%
Detroit, MI 27.6% 13.7%
Hartford, CT 27.4% 14.8%
Houston, TX 23.2% 15.1%
Indianapolis, IN 25.8% 17.6%
Jacksonville, FL 30.0% 14.5%
Kansas City, MO 26.9% 16.5%
Las Vegas, NV 25.3% 14.6%
Los Angeles, CA 23.7% 9.4%
Louisville, KY 28.9% 16.0%
Memphis, TN 29.4% 14.1%
Miami, FL 25.0% 11.2%
Milwaukee, WI 29.1% 15.2%
Minneapolis, MN 26.9% 17.4%
Nashville, TN 26.7% 14.9%
New Orleans, LA 28.0% 14.2%
New York, NY 23.9% 11.8%
Oklahoma City, OK 28.1% 16.1%
Orlando, FL 25.0% 12.2%
Philadelphia, PA 27.6% 13.0%
Phoenix, AZ 25.6% 15.5%
Pittsburgh, PA 32.1% 12.7%
Portland, OR 28.1% 13.8%
Providence, RI 27.1% 13.6%
Raleigh, NC 25.9% 15.8%
Richmond, VA 29.6% 13.8%
Riverside, CA 21.9% 16.4%
Sacramento, CA 27.9% 13.2%
Salt Lake City, UT 22.0% 16.3%
San Antonio, TX 25.7% 14.9%
San Diego, CA 26.1% 12.4%
San Francisco, CA 26.1% 10.9%
San Jose, CA 23.7% 10.4%
Seattle, WA 25.3% 15.8%
St. Louis, MO 29.4% 14.8%
Tampa, FL 27.3% 13.1%
Virginia Beach, VA 30.4% 13.2%
Washington, DC 23.9% 13.1%

Methodology

This report is based  on a Redfin analysis of U.S. Census American Community Survey micro data from 2022 (the most recent year for which this data is available) that breaks down the share of three-bedroom-plus homes owned and occupied by each generation, by household type. The three household types are as follows: 1 or 2 adults total living in the home; neither are minor children (for boomers, we refer to this category as “empty nesters”), 3 or more adults total living in the home; none are minor children, and households where adults are living with their minor children. Redfin also broke down the share of three-bedroom-plus homes rented by each generation, by household type. 

Gen Zers were 19-25 years old in 2022 (only adult Gen Zers were included), millennials were 26-41 Gen Xers were 42-57, and baby boomers were 58-76. 

* ACS data was retrieved from IPUMS USA

*Steven Ruggles, Sarah Flood, Matthew Sobek, Daniel Backman, Annie Chen, Grace Cooper,  Stephanie Richards, Renae Rogers, and Megan Schouweiler. IPUMS USA: Version 14.0 [dataset]. Minneapolis, MN: IPUMS, 2023. https://doi.org/10.18128/D010.V14.0

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