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National survey sheds light on home ownership

In 2010, the federal government replaced the long-form census questionnaire with a voluntary household survey called the National Household Survey. It produced some interesting results that can give us some national direction on housing.

To no one's surprise, those in the 15-to-24 age group make up a very small percentage of household headship and home-ownership rates. These rates double and triple respectively for the 25-to-34 age group.

This should give some direction to those building and selling homes, selling furniture and appliances or doing renovations. This 10-year span of the population is making major purchasing decisions on a first-time basis and should be a primary marketing target. Although numbers jump again in the 35-to-44 age group, this is more of a natural progression than a major shift or pattern.

The changes are not nearly as dramatic for the 45-54, 55-64, 65-74 and 75+ age groups. Their numbers remain fairly consistent. Even the empty-nesters and down-sizers are still homeowners, just with different homes.

As we all know, baby-boomers were raised with the philosophy of owning your home as quickly as possible and eliminating their mortgages before the normal amortization period. In 1981, with interest rates in excess of 21 per cent, this way of thinking was understandable. But this sense of repayment urgency dissipated considerably when interest rates fell to single digits, and even more over the past few years with record-low rates.

Those of us who are still stuck in our baby-boomer mentality have a difficult time understanding this philosophy, but we must accept it as Gen X and Gen Y have a different mindset. And since only 0.31 per cent of all mortgages are in arrears by three or more months, maybe it's time to acknowledge that they know what they're doing when it comes to budgeting.

The National Household Survey identified one million housing units, or seven per cent of the total stock, that are in need of major repairs. Homes built before 1920 make up about 17 per cent of the stock, but those built in the 1946-1960 and 1971-1980 periods are the largest groups requiring major renovations.

Given these trends and numbers, it appears that both the new-home and renovation industries will be on solid ground for a number of years.

Mike Moore is president of the Manitoba Homebuilders' Association.

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