Long Island Board of Realtors President-elect Mark Donnelly has also...

Long Island Board of Realtors President-elect Mark Donnelly has also served as chair of NAR's research committee. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

As past chair of the research committee for the National Association of Realtors, Mark Donnelly participated in discussions that made clear Long Island was often the outlier.

“Leave it to Long Island to be the anomaly,” said Donnelly, an LI-based real estate agent. “In typical New York fashion.”

But as the NAR released its 2024 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report, Donnelly said the national data is now more consistent with Long Island.

The COVID-19 pandemic, he said, was in some ways “like an equalizer,” so data on the challenges the rest of the country faces tend to apply more to Long Island now than in years past, he said.

“So many of the markets are dealing with the same problem,” Donnelly said.

"Leave it to Long Island to be the anomaly. In typical New York fashion."

— Mark Donnelly, LIBOR president-elect and Howard Hanna Coach Realtors agent

Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Most national data sets do not account for the eccentricities of Long Island as compared to New York State, nor for the differences between Nassau and Suffolk counties. The East End of the Island is a different animal altogether — even amid Long Island-specific data collections.

“I truly believe that the areas on Long Island and Queens and Brooklyn are different than the rest of the country,” said Daniel Gale Sotheby's International agent Leah Tozer. “I don't think that it's fair for this area to be mushed into the rest of the country because we're just not the same.”

Tozer attributes this, in part, to particularly high taxes, zoning laws in need of updates and a lack of affordable housing. These areas, she said, are in need of attention from zoning and building departments.

“I know there's all these broad brushes, but every municipality is so significantly different, which is what makes this area so appealing to so many people,” Tozer said.

How old is each generation?

Here's how NAR split up their data.

Silent Generation

78-98 years old

Born between 1925 and 1945, they were the smallest share of buyers, at 4%.

Older boomers

69-77 years old

Born between 1946 and 1954, older boomers purchased the newest homes on average.

Younger boomers

59-68 years old

Younger Boomers, born between 1955 and 1964, expect to own their homes for the longest period of time, at 20 years.

Gen X

44-58 years old

Buyers born between 1965 and 1979 were the most likely to purchase a multi-generational home, as well as most likely to purchase a home for a job relocation or move.

Older millennials

34-43 years old

Born between 1980 and 1989, they had the highest share of married couples buying homes. Also, 35% of them reported having a median of $40,000 in student loan debt.

Younger millennials

25-33 years old

75% of Younger millennials, born between 1990 and 1998, were first-time home buyers. Also, 41% of them reported having a median student loan balance of $30,000.

Gen Z

18-24 years old

Buyers and sellers born between 1999 and 2011 made up just 3% of buyers and 2% of sellers. Buyers in this group also tend to buy older homes.

Source: 2024 NAR Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends

Takeaway #1: Millennials are the biggest generation of buyers

Last year, baby boomers were the biggest generation of buyers, but millennials reclaimed the title this year, according to NAR data.

“It was like a one-year switch between the two generations, and now it seems it’s back to millennials,” said Jessica Lautz, NAR's deputy chief economist and vice president of research.

Tozer said the trend is consistent with her experience, but the Long Island market continues to shock her.

“I was in a multiple bidding situation for my buyers — young buyers, who have an incredible amount of money, they have great jobs, and then the parents are helping them out with the rest,” Tozer said. “We just went all cash, over asking, 15% down at contract signing, and we didn't get the house.”

Realtor Lisa Palermo, of Signature Premier Properties, is based in Babylon but covers the Island as well as most of Queens. In her experience, she said, she has seen millennials looking to purchase homes with family.

One couple in their early 30s, she said, is buying a house with one set of parents. This way, there will be extra assistance for a father who uses a wheelchair.

“It’s divided, the home, it’ll be a space for the parents and then a space for the couple, as they start their life together,” Palermo said.

Others, she said, consider buying with their parents for financial reasons.

“It just makes it a little easier with mortgage rates that they’ll have a higher down payment then,” Palermo said. “It makes monthly numbers a lot more digestible.”

Takeaway #2: Gen Z has entered the chat

“Gen Z-ers continue to come in as single digits, but they are slowly entering into the real estate market,” Lautz said.

As a Long Island agent for Howard Hanna Coach Realtors and president-elect of the Long Island Board of Realtors, Donnelly has seen this firsthand. Some Gen Z buyers, Donnelly said, have considered buying homes in partnership with other individuals — friends, even — as investments.

In his view, the influence of earlier generations and their experiences have given Gen Z perspective. Younger buyers, he said, seem to recognize early that a real estate purchase is an entry point for building wealth.

Some of them [Gen Zers] aren't necessarily ready yet, but now they're able to develop a plan that will make them more prepared in the near future.

— Mark Donnelly

“It's looked at as an investment, regardless of why you're buying it,” Donnelly said.

Lately, younger buyers have requested consultations with Donnelly. Some, he said, will meet with him for informational purposes and find out they are in a position to start the homebuying process.

“They want to see what they can do,” Donnelly said. “Some of them aren't necessarily ready yet, but now they're able to develop a plan that will make them more prepared in the near future.”

Meanwhile, Donnelly said he has seen increased interest in the development of multigenerational housing options. He has seen interest from “buyers who are looking to have the space for extended family, or parents who want their older children to be able to move back in if it will help them to save money or if there's some sort of life change.”

On Long Island, inventory is limited for that style of housing, he said.

“We don't have as much two- and three-plus family houses available, just from the natural design of real estate on Long Island, it's just not as prevalent,” Donnelly said.

Further changes to regulations on accessory dwellings would create more opportunity for this type of housing on the Island, he added.

Takeaway #3: The median distance between a home purchased and the buyer’s previous residence is down overall

Between 1989 and 2021, NAR researchers saw homebuyers moving just 10 to 15 miles away from previous residences.

“And then, during the pandemic, it shot up to 50 miles,” Lautz said.

That number dropped back down to 20 miles this year, data shows.

Today’s figure remains “elevated” compared to historical numbers, Lautz said, but not as severely as during pandemic years. She theorized the jump during the pandemic could be attributed to remote work trends, affordability and the desire for more space.

For older millennials, the median was 12 miles; for the Silent Generation and baby boomers, the median was 63 and 50 miles, respectively. 

Takeaway #4: 71% of buyers interviewed only one real estate agent during their home search

“It really comes down to, people use who’s referred to them — or who they’ve worked with before,” Lautz said. “We’re seeing that quite consistently, that instead of interviewing a few folks, they know and they trust that person.”

Over the years, Lautz said, the findings in this area have been consistent.

Palermo estimates 95% of her business is referral. If a referral comes from a friend, family member or co-worker who had a good experience, she said, it can be OK to choose that individual without interviewing others. A situation like this presents the opportunity to talk it through, she explained, to find out why a trusted acquaintance is recommending a certain real estate agent.

“If you don’t know anyone, and you’re just skimming through Realtor.com, Homes.com, Zillow, whatever, you don’t know where to start, then I would definitely speak to at least three,” Palermo said.

“When I go on listing appointments and they're not ready to sign right there and they say, 'I'm interviewing other people,' I'm all for that,” said Chrissy Bogue, an agent for Douglas Elliman. “You have to figure out who's going to be the best fit for you and your family.”

If Bogue is not a prospective client's pick, she said, she does not take it personally.

“I don't get offended by that,” Bogue said. “You should interview multiple people, because this is the biggest either sale or purchase of your life, right? Your home is your biggest investment.”

Takeaway #5: More singles are purchasing homes

"I have a lot of women buying right now. I definitely feel like the women movement is out there, for sure."

— Leah Tozer, of Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty

Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

“Looking over time, when we think essentially of the household composition, we are seeing there’s more singles who are purchasing homes,” Lautz said. “We’re really seeing that reflected among Gen Zers, too.”

When it comes to household composition, Lautz also noted that the lowest share of homebuyers since the '80s have a child under the age of 18 living in the home.

“It could just be that homebuyers are older, or that they’re delaying having children,” Lautz said. “They may have had children already and be empty nesters.”

While her clients' situations have varied, Tozer said she has seen an increase in female clients buying homes in their own names.

“I have a lot of women buying right now,” Tozer said. “I definitely feel like the women movement is out there, for sure.”

Bogue said a female client in her 40s recently closed on a waterfront home in Lindenhurst.

“She got a nice house, right on the water; she could sit out on the deck and watch boats pass by,” Bogue said. 

Takeaway #6: Baby boomers are the largest generation of home sellers

"I'm getting a lot of downsizers. The home is too big for them."

— Chrissy Bogue, of Douglas Elliman

Credit: Oksana Pali Photography

Younger and older boomers combined account for 52% of home sellers, according to NAR.

While most of Bogue's buyers still tend to be young couples, her sellers are often older. 

“I'm getting a lot of downsizers,” Bogue said. “The home is too big for them.”

Some are also looking to move into houses that have only one level, she said.

Currently, Bogue is working with a seller in East Islip looking either to downsize to a condo, or to buy a two-family house that would also accommodate the seller's son and his fiance. 

“They live in a very, very upscale community in East Islip — million-dollar homes — and the house is like 3,000 square feet,” Bogue said. “He's in his 80s — he can't handle the landscape, the maintenance, the pool, everything. So that's too much for them now.”

Takeaway #7: Older millennials are more likely to be repeat homebuyers this year than they are to be first-time buyers

“I think society, in general, thinks of millennials as really young adults who are just going to be first-time homebuyers,” said Lautz, of the National Association of Realtors. “Frankly, this report is showing that they’re middle-aged, and that they are buying repeat properties.”

Younger millennials are still commonly first-time buyers, Lautz said, with 75% of the age group involved in the housing market coming in as first-time purchasers. Forty-four percent of older millennials were first-time buyers, NAR reports.

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