We're at the intersection of some major generational shifts. The huge Generation Y -- ages 18 to 34 -- is entering the traditional home-buying years. Meanwhile, their parents and grandparents -- the baby boomers, who inspired Millennials' other nickname, "echo boomers" -- have started to retire.
As you might imagine, real estate professionals are keeping close tabs on these demographic shifts.
What do they foresee? At a recent conference of the National Association of Realtors, panelists opened their briefcases and pulled out their crystal balls.
Economist Selma Hepp of the National Association of Realtors says the growth of the senior population will fuel demand for affordable accessible housing. They'll leave the homes of their younger years, swelling the current supply of housing.
But will echo boomers pick up that slack?
"Echo boomers represent a long-term opportunity for a housing market recovery, but they are struggling in the current economic crisis," said Hepp. "Consequently, demand for rental housing is likely to climb in the near term."
The industry has noted with trepidation a decline in homeownership, particularly among those younger than 35.
But Glenn E. Crenlin of the University of Washington's Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies thinks the concern may be overblown. That age group has been hit particularly hard by the Great Recession, with unemployment rates nearly double the national average as of January. Crenlin doesn't think they're avoiding homeownership; more likely, he said, they're just delaying it by a few years.