You may never have thought of housing in this way, but exploring the ages of the people where you live—or where you want to move—can give you a high level sense of potential homebuying opportunities. Small towns across America have experienced rapid outmigration. And the main reason? Jobs. Young, working-age people are moving where the jobs are and buying up affordable housing in these popular places. In other words, your friend who is having a hard time finding an apartment in San Francisco is committed to the place because it’s an area where industry reigns.
This is where age enters the picture. The majority of the population in growing, high-industry areas are 20- to 64-years-old. The places that have been abandoned by outmigration — so much so that they will pay you to move there — tend to skew 65 and older. Basically showing that wherever young, working-age people are moving, housing is, or will be, in higher demand and therefore less affordable.
To illustrate this, we created a map breaking down the country by age and median home value. After looking closely at the top 100 metros, the three counties with the highest working-age population are home to top industries and also have housing affordability issues: Arlington and Alexandria, VA and San Francisco, CA. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Arlington and Alexandria are two of the most popular counties for homeowners commuting into Washington DC. They have high housing demand and home values well above the national median ($672,700 in Arlington as opposed to $217,300 nationally). And San Francisco? It goes without saying, but let’s say it anyway: San Francisco dominates the tech space with the largest population in their wage-earning prime, and its median home value is $1,359,000.
As the population in these areas deal with a housing crisis, the areas they have left behind are becoming more creative in recruiting them back. Places like Baltimore are literally paying people to move there. And it’s interesting to note that the cities where your paycheck goes a long way, tend to be in communities with less working-age people. If owning a home is still your American dream, that dream may be better fulfilled looking into places whose populations are under 20 and over 64 years of age.
Take a look at the map above and see what you find.
For the full report, click here.
We used a ternary coloring scheme to map three sets of ages—young (0-19 years), working age (20-64) and elderly (65 and over). Each county is represented by a color mixture determined by its distance from the national age structure. This map is inspired by work done by Kashnitsky, I., & Schöley, J. (2018). Regional population structures at a glance. The Lancet, 392(10143), 209–210., and makes use of their code, published here.
Median home values by county are based on Trulia estimates. We use the Census Bureau’s 2010 and 2017 population estimates by age.
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