23 October 2021
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Loner living: a local and global trend

John McGrath
10 December 2019

We have long assumed that a home houses many people. But the future of homes is increasingly single occupancy. More Australians are flying solo and embracing ‘loner living’, with a significant impact on the property market.

Confident and content with their single status, our new loner liver home buyers want smaller home options that suit their unique needs while also delivering a community right on their doorstep.

As discussed in our recently released McGrath Report 2020, almost a quarter of Australian homes in 2016 were single person households, an increase from one in five in 1991, according to the 2016 Census from the Bureau of Statistics.

The growth of loner living has been experienced around the world.

Approximately one third of households in the EU in 2017 comprised single adults without children. In the UK in 2017, 28% of households contained one person, a big increase from around 17% in 1971. In the US, some 35.4 million people, or 28.1% of all households, lived alone – a strong rise from 17.1% in 1970.

In Australia, the number of people living alone is forecast to surge from 2.3 million in 2016 to 3-3.5 million in 2041, an increase of 32-53%.

The number of one person households is projected to grow in all OECD countries from the early mid-2000s to 2025-30. The biggest increases are forecast for England (60%), New Zealand (71%) and France (75%).

One of the main drivers of loner living is an ageing demographic.

In 2016, 14% of Australians were aged 65 years or over, an increase from 11% in 2011. This is forecast to rise to 21-23% by 2066.

There has been a sharp increase in those aged 80 years or over living alone (from 9% in 1986 to 15% in 2011) and middle-aged people living alone (22% in 1986 to 31% in 2011).

Older Australians are more likely to be widowed or live alone by circumstance. Conversely, there is growing evidence that young people are choosing to live alone.

Young people are marrying later, extending their single status. The median age at first marriage in 2017 was 30.4 years for men and 28.8 years for women. In the past decade, this has increased 0.8 years for men and 1.2 years for women.

Community is at the heart of a single person’s needs in property. Rather than the selfish stereotype, research shows single people are heavily engaged with their community and more likely to help friends, neighbours and co-workers with shopping, errands, housework, transport and gardening.

Developers are increasingly delivering ready-made communities for singles in apartment complexes. They are moving beyond the pool and gym to offer many more facilities that encourage interaction, such as communal rooftop gardens and kitchens, chill-out zones, yoga studios, libraries and in-house cinemas. After a busy week, singles can go home and socialise in their building with other residents.

Singles also want community on their doorstep. The walkability of their homes is important to ensure loner living doesn’t become lonely living. Being able to stroll to their local village for a coffee, some shopping or lunch with a friend is highly valued.

Singles like one bedders with a study zone and designer fixtures in a security block with CBD transport close by. For those on a good wicket, pocket penthouses could be a future trend.

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