Posted on 28th July 2012

The Boomerang Generation

Martin Williamson, Head of Residential PropertyEmpty nest syndrome used to be something that many mothers in particular dreaded; marked often by the teenagers departure for university. In years gone by, children would go to university and, most likely, stay away when they found a career and started their own families. In the years between graduation and settling down, most young people would have been able to get on the property ladder, either in their own right or with a partner or friends.

Nowadays, however, we are seeing increasing numbers of young people joining the so-called boomerang generation. They graduate or move away to work for a few years and then mysteriously appear back home, almost as if they had never been away.

New research has found that almost three million young adults aged between 20 and 34 are living at home with their parents; an increase of almost 500,000 since 1997. Several factors have changed in the intervening years; the main one being that there has been a 40% rise in average house asking prices, meaning that many young people are saving for far longer than they used to in order to get on the housing ladder.

The boomerang phenomena is highest among men aged between 20 and 35 with most attracted back to the empty nest by low cost or, on many occasions, free board and lodging. The continuous rise in rental prices is also deterring young people from standing on their own two feet, while the age at which many choose to marry has also hit the big 3-0 for the first time. The mean year for first marriages for women in 1991 was 25.5 and just 23.1 back in 1981, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS.)

This all means that young people are increasingly looking at the bottom line, and with the jobs market stagnant, many are making the decision to return to the family home to cut living costs.

What does this all mean for their parents? Well, never a phrase has been more true than children are for life. The family home now echoes with the sound of grown-up children - the perpetual teenagers - draining their parents nest eggs, retirement funds and pensions.

The Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) has even reported a 44% increase in the number of over 60s falling behind with mortgage payments in the last three years. Many are stretching themselves to the limit financially to act as the Bank of Mum and Dad, in order to give their offspring a step up on the housing ladder or to fund the day-to-day living costs of their adult children. There are few sign that things will change for the better any time soon.

Martin Williamson is Head of Residential Property at Latimer Hinks Solicitors in Darlington. Latimer Hinks has a team of around 50 people serving private and corporate clients.

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