I have commented before that there is good evidence to lead me to believe that the current run up in housing is not just a cyclical real estate price pattern but also a generational pattern that perhaps began in the mid-70s or 80s.
Here is a really interesting paper discussing this possibility.
The giant baby boom generation born between 1946 and 1964 has been a dominant force in the housing market for decades. This group has always provided the largest age cohorts, and has created a surge in demand as it passed through each stage of the life cycle. As its members entered into home buying in the 1970s, gentrification in cities and construction of starter homes in suburbs increased. Their subsequent march into middle age was accompanied by rising earnings and larger expenditures for move-up housing. Looking ahead to the coming decade, the boomers will retire, relocate, and eventually withdraw from the housing market.
Given the potential effects of so many of these changes happening in a limited period of time, communities should consider how best to plan this transition. Communities in the United States face an historic tipping point. After decades of stability, we expect the ratio of seniors to working-age residents to grow abruptly, increasing by roughly 30% in each of the next two decades.
We also expect that this change will make many more homes available for sale than there are buyers for them. The exit of the baby boomers from homeownership could have effects as significant as their entry, though with different consequences.
Sellers of existing homes provide 85% of the annual supply of homes sold, and home sales are
driven by the aging of the population since seniors are net home sellers. The ratio of seniors to working-age residents will increase by 67% over the next two decades; thus we anticipate the end of a generational housing bubble. We also find that younger generations face an affordability barrier created by the recent housing price boom. With proper foresight, planners could mitigate what otherwise could be significant consequences of these projections.
We argue that the United States is currently experiencing a short-term housing market bubble that is nested within a longer-term, generational housing bubble of greater magnitude. The recent housing price boom has been remarkably strong. From 2000 to 2005, the median sales price reported by the National Association of Realtors rose 48.6% nationwide, and in some areas, such as California, the median sales price rose 117.1%. Only in 2007 did prices begin to slip in particular metropolitan areas and nationwide. This price run-up had a two-edged effect that substantially increased the home equity of existing homeowners while at the same time making housing less affordable for would-be home buyers. The result is a sharply increased generation gap, with the baby boomers largely gaining, while members of younger generations face higher affordability hurdles.