Adobe Stock / Piotr Adamowicz

The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies’ annual State of the Nation’s Housing report recently released its 30th anniversary edition, in which the authors created a comparison showing how the housing market of 1988 measures up against the market today.

Curbed's Patrick Sisson reports on the findings, which show how things have gotten harder for younger buyers.

Overall, homes were smaller, but easier for the average American to afford (based on the cost-to-median-income comparison), and supply was much healthier. The student loan burden was also significantly smaller. This time capsule underlines the serious supply and cost challenges we face today, especially single-family homes, as well as the rise in the rent-burdened population. Note that due to the variety of data sources, some information comes from 1989 or 1990, and has been marked as such in the chart below.

Then and Now: The Housing Market in 1988 versus 2017

Measurement19882017DifferencePercent Change
Median new home sale price (*)$233,184$323,100$89,91639%
Median new home size1,8102,42261234%
Median existing home sale price$187,053$247,200$60,14732%
Median price-to-income ratio3.24.2131%
New units completed1,5301,153-377-25%
New single-family homes completed1,085795-289-27%
Inventory of existing single-family homes for sale2,1601,290-870-40%
Months’ supply of existing single-family homes for sale8.63.9-4.7-55%
Millions of rental households (*)32.843.81133%
Share of households aged 20-39 w/student loan debt (#)24.30%43.50%19.2 ppts79%
Share of debtors w/$50,000 or more student debt (#)3.60%21.20%17.6 ppts489%
Median student loan debt balance (#)$5,600$19,000$13,400239%
Millions of households with cost burdens (*)24.338.113.756%
Millions of renter households with severe cost burderns (*)6.3114.775%
Percent of households with severe cost burdens (*)11.50%15.60%4.1 ppts36%
Homeownership rate for 25–34 year olds45.20%39.20%6.0 ppts-13%
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