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No, it’s not just your imagination. Everyone really is moving in together. Last year, the proportion of unmarried Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 living with a partner reached a record high of 11 percent, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.
And the reason more young couples — known colloquially as Gen Z — are moving in together early in their relationships probably won’t surprise you, either. It’s simple: It helps them save money. Inflation has made everything from groceries to gas more expensive. Housing has gotten pricier, too (not to mention harder to come by). In today’s economic landscape, splitting living expenses with another person has become an increasingly appealing — and, for some people, downright necessary — option.
“Times are hard and everything is very expensive,” says real estate agent Rashi Malhotra. “With student loans and high costs of living, many young couples decide to live together so they can pool their resources to afford a larger space in the neighborhood of their choice.”
In other words: Gen Z is just super practical — far more so than other generations, at least as far as real estate agent Angela Carrasco sees it. When she takes Gen Z couples on home tours, she says the “vibes” are totally different from what she gets when she takes older couples to see properties.
“There is no romanticism or talk about architectural styles or historical zones,” she says. “It’s about price and square footage — that’s it.”
There’s some data to back this up, too. A recent Realtor.com survey found that 80 percent of Gen Zers reported that either money, logistics, or both contributed to their decision to move in with a romantic partner, compared to just 56 percent of Gen Xers and 44 percent of Baby Boomers.
But don’t worry, the romance is not totally gone for Gen Z, Carrasco says. Instead, all that practicality means they’re having more vulnerable, real conversations earlier in their relationships. While other generations may have shied away from conversations about money, for example, Gen Zers discuss it “very openly and candidly,” she says.
On top of all that, the world around them has changed. Sky-high costs of living aside, society’s views on everything from marriage to gender to work — and a whole host of other social issues — have shifted. The old playbook has been thrown out the window, and Gen Z is more or less writing a new one from scratch.
“The novelty of living together has changed over the last few decades,” Malhotra says. “It is now considered prudent to live together before moving forward in a relationship.”
Of course, there are downsides to moving in together early in a relationship. There’s still the logistical (and financial) fallout to deal with after a breakup. Especially when it comes to buying a house, Gen Zers often haven’t totally figured out their personal style or what they need out of their living space like older couples have, Carrasco says. This can create unexpected conflict within the relationship, or it may simply mean that Gen Zers end up buying a place they hate.
In some instances, the actual process of buying a house or finding an apartment together can lead some couples down a bumpy road. “As romantic as merging your lives together can be, it’s when things get real,” Carrasco says. “You are opening up about each other’s finances, credit history, savings — or lack thereof — and so much more. That can be a deal breaker for some people.”
Fortunately for Gen Z couples, the best thing to do is… the thing they’re already really good at: talking.
“Talk about each other’s finances, debt, earnings, and career plans,” Carrasco says. “It won’t come out of left field after you’ve seen the perfect home at an open house. You’re both prepared.”