Monday, October 19, 2015

Is Living-at-Home an Indicator of the Standard of Living?

In this article, I noted that median incomes — even when adjusted for cost of living, taxes, and social benfits — are higher in the United States than in Europe. What's more, Americans at poverty level (i.e., 60% of national median income) have more purchasing power than median-level households in many European countries.

But what are some outward indications of this? The UNICEF report on childhood poverty, for example, attempts to quantify the effects of poverty by asking extremely subjective questions like "Did you feel stress this week?" and using the answer to compile a type of index. The problems with indicators such as these should be obvious, since "stress" can mean any number of things.

But let's try for a somewhat more concrete manifestation of a low standard of living: adults living with parents.

In the US, at least, it's been long accepted that new household formation is an indicator of the state of the economy. Specifically, it is assumed that young people who can find gainful employment will be able to move out of their parents' homes more quickly, and also potentially find spouses and/or have children sooner. Economic factors are generally blamed on trends in living at home, as with the discussion about the "boomerang effect" during the most recent business cycle.

This has been the case historically in the US as the marrying age of Americans has fluctuated over time and geography with the availability of land, which was a key factor in economic self-sufficiency in an agrarian setting.

It appears to have been an important factor in Europe as well, since in pre-industrial times, there was little land available for purchase or settlement — and even less in the way of manufacturing jobs — and adult children often had to wait to simply inherent the family lands rather than attempt to find a new household.

So what percentage of adults ages 25-34 still live with their parents nowadays? According to Eurostat, the percentage of adults in this group that still live at home varies substantially from country to country:

The US numbers are from the Census. (Men tend to live with their parents in much larger percentages than women, by the way.)

The percentages here swing quite a bit between 57 percent in Slovakia and Denmark at 1.4 percent.

It's reasonable to accept that cultural factors may be at play here.  Clearly, living at home with one's parents appears to be frowned upon more in Scandinavia than in other rich countries of similar median income levels.

Nevertheless, if we do plot the living-home numbers against median disposable income, we do see a pretty clear correlation:

The countries where the median household has more purchasing power have fewer cases of adult children living with parents. Few should be surprised to find Greece and Portugal up in the top left of graph, for example. Almost all countries with median incomes above $20,000 have living-at-home percentages below 20 percent, while almost all countries with median income below $30,000 have living-at-home levels above 30 percent.

While it's not a perfect proxy for household purchasing power, the percentage of adults that continue to live at home in the prime family formation years does give us some insight into the real-world implications of the fact that real disposable income is lower in most European countries than it is in the United States.

A note on the data: This is all 2013 data, except for Turkey, which is 2007 (the most recent available.) The US data matches up with the Euro data on the age of the adults measured (i.e., 25-34), although in the case of the Euro data, it includes married or cohabiting adults children living with parents. These people are excluded in the US data. Fortunately for us, though, the percentage of people living at home who were also married or cohabiting is under 5 percent

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Metro Denver: Average Apartment Rent Growth Sets New Record During Second Quarter

Third quarter multifamily vacancy and rent data will be coming out in a about a month, but let's have a closer look at the second quarter's numbers. If current trends are any indication, the third quarter — which tends to be the strongest quarter of the year for multifamily — will be another period of low vacancies and high rent growth.

The first graph shows the overall apartment vacancy rate in metro Denver through the second quarter of this year. The rate was 4.5 percent for the second quarter. that's down from the first quarter rate of 4.9 percent, and down from 4.7 percent during the second quarter of 2014. So, vacancies are low, given that 4 percent is pretty much as low as the vacancy rate ever goes in the metro area. From a tenant perspective, it's about as easy to find an apartment now as it was during the final days of the dot-com boom:

And when vacancy rates get low, we generally expect rent growth. But this time around, we're seeing some of the largest rent growth we've ever seen since the survey was first initiated in the early 1980s. The average rent in metro Denver during the second quarter was $1,265, which is the highest rent ever recorded in nominal terms. It's also the highest rent ever recorded in real terms, but I'll have to adjust the rents for inflation in a future post. The current acceleration in rents outpaces the 1990s:  

In fact, the past three quarters, when measured in year-over-year comparisons, show by far the largest YOY growth in rents ever recorded.  The second quarter's average rent of $1,265 was up an enormous  13.2 percent from the second quarter of 2014 when the average rent was $1,117. The YOY increase was over 12 percent for both the fourth quarter of 2014 and the first quarter of 2015:

Thanks to continued in-migration and a relatively small amount of new single-family construction, multifamily housing remains the most feasible option for many households. Those seeking affordability will move outward from the urban center to more affordable C-class units in further out neighborhoods. Some households will double up or take on roommates. 

The population growth data, though, won't come in for a year after the fact, so it's hard to know to what extent a lack of affordability is impacting in-migration at this time.

Compared to to other markets, the Denver market is experiencing some of the highest rent growth rates in the nation. But, of course, rent level remain well below those in San Francisco

Note: The report also tracks median rent, although, at this time, there is no significant difference in the trend between median rents and average rents. the median rent during the second quarter of 2015 was $1,225, which was up 14.7 percent from the 2nd Q 2014 median rent of $1,067. The median rent during the first quarter of 2015 was $1,203.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Colorado One of the Best States for Property Tax

This map from the Tax Foundation shows that Colorado has some of the lowest property taxes in the nation:

This should not be interpreted as a proxy map for which states have the lowest overall tax burden, for example. Note that Texas has relatively high property tax. But, Texas has no income tax so there's little we can discern about taxes in general from this map.

But when thinking about property taxes, it is useful to note that property taxes are especially damaging to people on fixed incomes like retirees and disabled people. Old people with low incomes, for example, would do fairly well in a state with high income tax and low property tax. But if property taxes are high, those seniors would get pummeled by repeated increases  in the property tax.