Demographics take bigger role in future housing needs

Kristi Bailey 2020 NETAR President

Birth rates are not at the top of the list some REALTORS® think about when mapping out leads for new clients. But that’s not the case in the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Research Department. Dr. Jessica Lautz, Vice President of Demographics and Behavioral Insights, watches it and other demographic trends like a hawk. She doesn’t especially like the current trend. 


More adults say they don’t want to have kids. Almost half (44%) of adults younger than 50 who don’t have children say they aren’t likely or “not at all likely” that have children, according to a new Pew Research Center Study. That’s up 37% from what the same age group said in 2018. 

Since the 2008 recession, birth rates in the U.S. have plummeted. It hit an all-time low in 2020. Pandemic-related economic uncertainty is likely behind the latest decline, economists told MarketWatch. A One Morning Consult survey of 572 Millennials last year found 15% were less interested in having kids due to the pandemic. And 17% said they would further delay having kids because of it. The expense of raising children also is a growing concern expressed by millennial non-parents. 

Here in the region of NE Tenn. and SW Va., monitored by the Northeast Tennessee Association of REALTORS® (NETAR), the number of births began a sharp decline in 2013. That dovetailed with the aging of the local population for a “negative natural population growth” situation. That simply means there were more deaths than births. Combine that with the number of college graduates and young people moving to other areas every fall, and the stage was set for a population decline unless enough new residents could be attracted to balance the losses.  

The current numbers show the births-deaths imbalance plus the average outmigration totals an annual area population loss of 5,608 people. So far, the number of new residents has balanced that loss. But our year-to-year population gain is less than 1%.  

In a NAR Economic Outlook blog, Lautz wrote that lower birth rates could have a future impact on housing demand. She noted that having a baby is often a leading housing decision prompting new families to buy a home or desire a larger home. 

The decline in births is already coinciding with fewer home buyers with children in the home. In 1985, 58% of buyers had children under the age of 18. That percentage has since fallen to 33%, she added. Census reports show that the local share of households with children under 6 years old is 25.4%. 

And then, there are the housing needs of a rapidly aging population. Currently, an average of 21 local residents turns 65 every day. Some plan to age in place. Others want to downsize but are not interested in moving out of the region.  

Combined, these factors push understanding the local demographic changes to a more prominent place in a REALTORS® toolbox. It means they will need to master new or refine current skills to meet the increasing housing needs of these varied demographic groups. 

Oh, one other demographic that is increasing is the veteran population. According to state data, 42% of all the veterans registered for retirement or benefits in Tennessee live in the greater Tri-Cities region. And thanks to veteran-friendly communities, colleges, and organizations like Mt. Home, their numbers are increasing. More about that later. 

NETAR is the voice for real estate in Northeast Tennessee. It is the largest trade association in the Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia region representing over 1,500 members and 100 affiliates involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.  

NETAR is the voice for real estate in Northeast Tennessee. It is the largest trade association in the Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia region, representing over 1,600+ members and 100+ business partners involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. Weekly market reports and information for both consumers and members are available on the NETAR website at