With about half the number of homes available on the market as there were two years ago, many frustrated buyers are wondering when more owners will be ready to sell. A new study by Redfin shows that it may be starting to happen — although homeowners are still staying in their homes much longer than they did a decade ago.
The study found that U.S. homeowner tenure dipped a bit in November 2021, when the typical homeowner had spent 13.2 years in their home — down from 13.5 years in November 2020, and the first drop in tenure length since 2012, when the average was 10.1 years. The recent dip may be the result of owners cashing in on high prices, and by the scores of remote workers opting to relocate during the pandemic.
But it’s unclear if the market is really at a turning point. In some areas, homes are being held far longer than the national average. In the Los Angeles market, homes have typically sold every 18 years, the longest homeowner tenure in the country; in fact, seven California locales are among the top 20 in which people stay put longest.
One reason could be a misunderstanding of the state’s Proposition 13. Under the law, property taxes are kept low for homeowners for as long as they stay in the home, and only rise again when they sell it, reflecting its higher value. Fearful their next purchase will come with much higher taxes, a growing population of older Californians has stayed in place, Redfin suggests. But changes to the law now allow those seniors to transfer their lower tax rate to a new home. When this is more widely understood, California homeowner tenure could slide.
Redfin’s study shows that Midwest cities — Chicago, St. Louis and Detroit among them — saw the greatest increases in tenure, while popular destinations like Las Vegas, Atlanta and Tampa, Fla., saw the greatest decreases. This week’s chart, based on the study, shows where people stay put the longest, as well as the local median sale prices.