‘If your parents are homeowners, you’re more likely to be a homeowner,’ housing expert says. Here’s why

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Several factors may affect your path toward homeownership — one may be your parents.

“If your parents are homeowners, you’re more likely to be a homeowner,” said Susan M. Wachter, a professor of real estate and finance at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Homeowner parents are more likely to directly assist their children with down payments through gifted money or loans, create multigenerational households to help young adults save money and even pass along firsthand knowledge of how to achieve homeownership, experts say.

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The tendency follows a broader underlying phenomenon or “an intergenerational transmission of status,” said Dowell Myers, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy.

“If your parents are more educated, you’re more educated. If a parent’s more educated and they have more money, then you have more money,” said Myers, whose research focuses on linking demographic data with housing trends.

‘The bank of mom and dad’ helps fund down payments

In 2023, about 23% of first-time buyers used a gift or a loan from friends or family for the down payment of their house, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Separately, Zillow’s chief economist Skylar Olsen said in August on CNBC’s “Last Call” that 40% of first-time homebuyers source money “from the bank of mom and dad” to make their down payments, up from one-third pre-pandemic.

“Some of that is hard-won savings,” she said. “The other part is, say, a gift from family and friends.”

Almost 40% of first-time home buyers seek out money from their parents, says Zillow's Skylar Olsen

“Intergenerational wealth is clearly associated with homeownership,” said Wachter. If a parent is a homeowner, they are more likely to assist with their kid’s down payment, she said.

In fact, a young adult’s homeownership rate increases with household income and the effect is compounded with the parent’s homeownership status, according to a 2018 report by the Urban Institute, an economic and social policy think tank based in Washington, D.C.

If your parent is not a homeowner, “then you are less likely to have intergenerational wealth or transferred gifts from your parent for a down payment, which has become quite important as down payments have increased,” she said.

Myers agreed: “As prices rise, down payments have to get bigger. No one can save up $100,000; that’s just not realistic.”

The lack of affordable housing keeps Gen Zers at home

Nearly a third, 31%, of adult Gen Zers, or those born in 1996 or later, live at home with their parents or a family member because they can’t afford to buy or rent their own place, a report by Intuit Credit Karma found.

The lack of affordable housing options is pushing young adults to live with their parents, and multigenerational living can help young people build savings to become homeowners, Wachter said.

But it’s harder for those with parents who are not homeowners: “Renter households are often precluded from bringing more people into their home. As a homeowner, you have more space, flexibility; you’re able to do so,” she said. “There’s this intergenerational propensity to be renters.”

Having homeowner parents is ‘like a 5 percentage point bonus’

Young adults with homeowner parents are more likely to become homeowners themselves because they can obtain more information about the mortgage application process directly from their parents, the Urban Institute found.

“Because the parents are so knowledgeable about homeownership, they’re more likely to encourage their kids to do it and show them how to do it,” Myers said. “It’s like a 5 percentage point bonus by having parents who are homeowners.”

Renter parents may express more “sour grapes” about the idea of owning a home, he said: “If they didn’t do it, they’re not going to talk it up.”

Cultural factors during someone’s upbringing can also influence their potential home buying and renting activity. “It’s a valid component,” Myers said.

If a young adult grew up with homeowner parents, they are more motivated to achieve the same status because they know the benefits firsthand.