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Which Cities Have the Deepest Roots?

Gray family home on a sunny day with a front porch and a separate garage with driveway. House has a bright wooden door and landscaping.

Default Author Icon Written by Taelor Candiloro Updated 03/14/2024

How does each generation approach homeownership, and what drives the decision to plant roots or seek new horizons? We studied census data and numbers from the American Community Survey to explore the cities and states where homeowners reside the longest. We also surveyed 1,008 homeowners to learn why some are choosing to stay in their current homes while others are ready to leave. The results reveal many factors that can influence homeownership decisions and show the diverse living preferences of each generation.

Key Findings
36% of Hawaii’s homeowner population has lived in its current residence for at least 24 years, the largest percentage among all states. New York (35%), Pennsylvania (35%), and West Virginia (35%) followed.
Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Weirton-Steubenville, West Virginia-Ohio, and Scranton–Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, have the highest percentage of long-tenured homeowners among U.S. metropolitan areas. Jacksonville, North Carolina, has the highest percentage of short-tenured homeowners.
37% of homeowners plan to live in their current residence forever.
Nearly 1 in 3 homeowners plan to leave their current residences in the near future, and 20% of these homeowners have already decided to move.
On average, homeowners planning to move expect a 53% property return on investment.

Longest-Tenured Homeowners

The first part of our study assessed how long people stay in their homes across the U.S. The map below shows the percentage of long-tenured homeowners, people who have lived in their residences for 24 years or longer, living in each state. We also looked at the states with the highest percentages of short-tenured homeowners—those who have lived in their homes for five years or less.

Hawaii was first for long-term residency, with 36% of residents staying in their homes for 24 years or more—longer than those of any other state. This trend of enduring homeownership was also present on the opposite side of the U.S.: New York came in second for the most long-term homeowners, followed by Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The metro areas of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Weirton-Steubenville, West Virginia-Ohio, and Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, had the highest rates of long-term homeownership.

Arizona, Nevada, and Florida led in short-term homeownership numbers. One potential reason is the states’ favorability for retirees since they all lack a Social Security tax and offer generally warm year-round climates. The metro areas of Jacksonville, North Carolina, Daphne-Fairhope-Foley, Alabama, and Panama City, Florida, had the largest percentage of homeowners who have lived in their homes for five years or less.

States With the Oldest and Youngest Homeowners

We next examined the ages of homeowners in different parts of the U.S. The following maps show the percentage of homeowners in each state by age. We gathered data to represent two different age groups, including 34 years old or younger and 75 years old or older.

Homeowners in the youngest group were concentrated in the Midwest. North Dakota led among states with the highest percentage of homeowners aged 34 or younger at 27.3%. This suggests it holds a strong appeal to the younger population, possibly due to its affordable cost of living.

Homeowners aged 35 to 54 were spread out from coast to coast, cropping up in large percentages in Utah (38.3%), Texas (38%), California (37.6%), and Georgia (37.2%). We noted a large concentration of 55- to 74-year-old homeowners in the Northeast—particularly in New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont. Hawaii had the highest percentage of homeowners aged 75 and older (15.1%), followed closely by Florida (14.8%).

We also collected and reviewed data on homeowner age by city. Those 54 years old or younger became homeowners in Jacksonville, North Carolina, more than in any other metro area we studied.

The largest percentage of homeowners aged 55 to 74 made up the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California, metro area, while The Villages in Florida was the biggest haven for the eldest crowd of homeowners at 66%.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

After collecting the above data on American homeownership, we surveyed 1,008 homeowners about their future residence plans and why they plan to stay or move. Respondents came from all generations, from Gen Z and millennials to Gen X and baby boomers.

We found distinct generational preferences on whether to stay or move shaped by reasons ranging from climate to job opportunities. We’ll first break down the percentages of respondents who plan to deepen their roots with no moving plans versus those who are moving or considering a relocation.

Infographic with piechart describing homeowners' future residence plans.

Most respondents (68%) had no moving plans when we surveyed them. More than a quarter of all respondents were thinking about moving, and 6% had plans to move. Let’s look at how likely each generation was to say they were staying put.

Infographic describing how 37% of homeowners want to stay in their current residence forever.

More than a third of homeowners (37%) said they intend to live in their current residence forever. This trend was most pronounced among baby boomers (52%), with 37% of this generation saying it was due to their area’s favorable climate.

In contrast, Gen X homeowners were most likely to remain in their current homes for family-related reasons (43%). Gen Xers (sometimes called the “sandwich generation”) often have more family members to care for, such as aging parents, children who have yet to leave the nest, or both.

Younger generations also had distinct motivations. Millennials (26%) and Gen Zers (27%) prioritized local school quality when deciding to stay in their current homes. This was in clear contrast to the 9% of baby boomers who considered good schools a deciding factor.

Overall, respondents agreed that the most important reasons for not moving were the affordability of their current homes, connections to the communities and neighborhoods in which they lived, and their families.

Infographic describing the reasons why people want to stay in their current home.

Although affordability was the top reason for staying among homeowners with no moving plans, newer residents—those who moved into their current homes within the last five years—valued community or neighborhood dynamics above affordability (55%). 

The perfect neighborhood means different things to people. The second most common reason newer residents had for wanting to stick around was local school quality (27%). However, those who had been in their homes longer preferred to stay for reasons related to family (48%) or their personal history in the current city (36%).

We also asked homeowners with no moving plans what could lead them to consider moving from their current residence. Financial reasons and high living costs topped the list.

Infographic describing why homeowners might consider leaving their current home.

Among all survey respondents, millennials were the homeowners most likely to stay due to job opportunities (22%). They were also the most likely to think about relocating for the same reason (38%).

Gen Z cited a high cost of living as the top reason for them to leave in the future (50%). These young homeowners are no strangers to tightening their spending in favor of long-term financial stability. Across generations, other top reasons for considering a move included wanting a lifestyle or home size change.

Reasons for Relocation Plans

The last part of our study uncovered which generations of homeowners are ready to relocate and why. We’ll look at those who are moving or considering a move, followed by their top reasons to leave their current homes and where they hope to go.

Infographic with bar chart describing which generation of homeowners are considering a move.

Gen Z was the largest group of homeowners among those moving or considering a move (58%). Economic factors were most important to Gen Z: 43% considered moving to escape a high cost of living, and another 17% attributed moving to their jobs. This second percentage was higher than among any other generation.

So, what about the homeowners who are definitely planning to move—not just thinking about it?

Infographic describing the top reasons why homeowners are leaving their current home.

Baby boomers were primarily motivated to move for retirement reasons or to be closer to family (36% for each reason). Gen Xers were more politically driven to move—17% were leaving due to dissatisfaction with local governance and 13% due to the area’s political climate.

Nearly one-third of the homeowners we surveyed anticipated leaving their current residences in the foreseeable future, and 20% had already made moving plans. Those respondents planning a move were optimistic about their financial futures, expecting an average property return on investment of 53%. This suggests confidence in the real estate market and their investment choices.

Where do these homeowners want to go? We’ll break it down by generation below.

Infographic describing the top destinations among homeowners planning to move.

The Evolving American Dream

From baby boomers rooted in their homes for decades to millennials and Gen Zers making their first forays into the market, each generation shapes the housing market with unique needs and aspirations. Understanding these generational nuances can enrich our appreciation of homeownership in areas we know or motivate us to follow in the footsteps of those venturing into new areas. Whether a homeowner is planning a short or long-distance move for family reasons or financial needs, they’ll continue to shape today’s real estate trends.


For this campaign, we analyzed data from the American Community Survey and the U.S. Census Bureau to identify which states and cities had the longest-tenured homeowners as well as the oldest and youngest homeowners. We also surveyed 1,008 homeowners about their future residence plans and why they planned to stay or move. Baby boomers made up 15.3% of our respondents; 32.9% were Generation X; 46.6% were millennials; the remaining 5.2% were Generation Z. We collected the survey data on Dec. 18, 2023. The margin of error for this study was 3% at a 95% confidence level.

Fair Use Policy

As generational trends continue to shape the world of homeownership, we invite you to share the insights from this study with your community for noncommercial purposes. Please include a link back to this page, allowing your readers full access to our comprehensive findings and methodology.