This work updates a previous article that used data from the American Housing Survey (funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and conducted in odd-numbered years by the Census Bureau) through 2007. The new study incorporates AHS data through 2011.
The mobility tendencies observed in the 2011 data imply that the expected length of stay in an owner-occupied single-family home would be about 16 years (the time it would take half of single-family buyers to move out). However 2011 is likely to be an atypical year so the article repeats the analysis using mobility tendencies observable in earlier years with results as shown in the figure below.
If a single estimate is needed for how long buyers who move in today or in the near future can be expected to remain in their homes the article recommends 13 years based on the rounded average across all data points shown in the figure.
The article also shows that over the 1987-2011 period the expected length of stay in a single-family home has been consistently longer for trade-up buyers than for first-time buyers. Averaged over those years the expected length of stay in a single-family home is about 11 and a half years for first-time buyers compared to 15 years for buyers who have owned a home before.
For more details see the full article "Latest Calculations Show Average Buyer Expected to Stay in a Home 13 Years" published as the January 2013 Special Study in NAHB's HousingEconomics.com.