Is the generation that rented its way through the recession ready for homeownership? Some builders think so and are beginning to explore ways to capitalize on pent-up demand. But turning the youngest Gen-Xers and the oldest millennials into homebuyers won’t happen overnight.

Additionally, it’s going to require more than the promise of walkable communities and energy-efficient appliances to propel the next — and largest — class of homebuyers into action. Economists predict that it could take first-time homebuyers at least three years to return to their pre-recession share of accounting for 40% of home sales. That group currently claims a 33% share, up from 29% at the market’s trough, according to Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for real-estate listing website

“We think the potential is there for 2017 to be the year that we get much closer to normal,” he said.

Industry watchers cite wage growth, affordable inventory in markets with attractive job prospects, current owners of existing homes trading up into larger properties and home-finance reform as necessary for this group to contribute to the housing market’s recovery.


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