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Coldwell Banker Real Estate Survey Finds Americans Disagree Over How Long is Too Long to Live at Home with Parents

MADISON, NJ – According to a new survey of more than 2,000 Americans conducted by Coldwell Banker Real Estate and leading psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig, Americans don’t see eye to eye about the appropriate amount of time for adults to live with parents after college.

The survey found that Americans ages 55 and older think it is acceptable for adults to live at home with their parents for as long as three years, while those ages 18 to 34 feel it is acceptable for adults to live at home with their parents for as long as five years.

Parents Not Ready to Let Go?

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Parents as a whole, and particularly those who are younger, may be driving the trend of adults living at home for a longer period of time. According to the survey, millennial parents (ages 18 to 34) are fine with grown children living at home for up to six years after college, while older parents (ages 55 and older) believe they should be out of the house within four years of finishing college.

“In terms of transitioning into independent adulthood, it’s almost as if 27 is the new 18,” said Dr. Ludwig, who also serves as lifestyle correspondent for Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC. “Living at home can be a great opportunity for young adults who need some time to get on their feet, but it’s only beneficial if the time is used wisely. Our twenties are a very crucial time because the decisions we make and the lessons we learn then influence who we become as adults.”

The Two Extremes of Boomerang Kids

Dr. Ludwig explains there are two extremes when analyzing the behaviors of adult children living at home: those who regress, delaying their development into independent adults, and those who are able to continue their transition into full adulthood by living at home with a purpose.

In either case, the acceptance of adults living at home has its limits. According to the survey, more than two in three Americans (70 percent) believe that too many adults living at home with their parents are avoiding responsibility, and nearly an equal proportion (65 percent) believe too many young adults who live at home after finishing college are overstaying their welcome.

Additional Survey Findings

          It’s not for everybody: While Americans are largely accepting of this living arrangement, the survey revealed that nearly one in seven Americans (13 percent) believe adults should never live at home with their parents.

·         Living at home affects mom and dad: More than half of Americans (57 percent) believe that when children return home after graduating from college, it prevents their parents from moving on with their lives.

·         Living at home with a purpose: Four in five Americans (80 percent) believe that it’s okay for adult children to live at home if they are saving money to buy their own home.

Advice for Parents

When children return to the nest, Dr. Ludwig recommends parents establish and enforce expectations that will help their adult children thrive.

          Give adult children responsibility: 92 percent of Americans agree that adult children who live at home with their parents should do their own chores.

·         Don’t let them live free of charge: 82 percent of Americans feel that adult children living at home should pay rent.

·         Set a target end date: Close to two in three (65 percent) Americans agree that adult children who live with their parents should move out as soon as they find a job.

The economy may be a reason to move home temporarily, but you can’t let the state of the economy get in the way of living your life,” said Dr. Ludwig. “The key to deciding if this living situation is right for parents, children and families is figuring out whether or not it will help the child develop and thrive. Adult children and their parents should use the time at home to move forward and grow, rather than regress and risk becoming perma-children or perma-parents.”

How Times are Changing

However long they stay at home, boomerang kids are changing the traditional lifestyle milestones for buying and selling homes – impacting themselves as first-time homebuyers and their downsizing parents alike. 

“A generation or two ago, young adults would traditionally graduate from college, rent for a time and then buy their first home. Their parents would eventually downsize, and it was less acceptable for young adults to move home,” said Budge Huskey, president and chief executive officer of Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC. “As a real estate brand, we wanted to better understand the behaviors of the younger generation, particularly boomerang kids, and how their lifestyle choices were influencing the way consumers view homeownership.”

The complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, is available here. A video summary of the findings, and the feelings of a family with a recent college graduate living at home, is viewable on the Coldwell Banker YouTube Channel, On Location.


This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of CooperKatz from June 13-17, 2013 among 2,021 U.S. adult adults ages 18 and older, among whom 888 are parents, 467 are parents of children less than 18 years old and 494 are parents of children 18 years of age or older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.


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