- Higher home prices and lower demand are a reflection of a "changed housing market," the billionaire investor says.
- The housing market is much less dependent on starter housing "than historically has been the case," Zell says.
- Millennials are delaying marriage, having children and saving money, which affects demand for housing, he says.
U.S. home prices have rebounded from the 2008 housing market crash, but demand is still low due to changes in living and buying habits of millennials, real estate mogul Sam Zell told CNBC on Wednesday.
"It's interesting that all the statistics recently on housing suggest that demand is down but prices aren't down. That doesn't necessarily make sense," the founder and chairman Equity Group Investments said on "Squawk Box." "We're dealing with a changed housing market."
Homeownership dropped from an all-time high of nearly 70 percent in 2005 to 63 percent in 2016, according to recent data, and the decline has been significant among people younger than 30 compared with other generations.
Those numbers, Zell contended, are a reflection of affordability, location and timing. "We're dealing with a housing market that is much less dependent on starter housing than historically has been the case."
The change in habits can be attributed to the millennial generation, particularly particularly those in their upper 20s and 30s, who are more likely to delay getting married, having children, and saving money.
Zell doesn't think millennials, who are more likely to have kids in their 30s rather their 20s, are a "new breed or new DNA. But he sees the change in habits as new opportunities in the market.
"That means that we have a huge group of people with enormous disposable income that we need to address and deal with as customers," he said. "I, eventually, think that they'll buy houses and have children, but I think with a much more connected-to-the-center-of-the-city approach."
The billionaire investor also points to other factors, such as savings, as for why demand for homes is low. Statistics show that the savings rate is also down to historic lows, which affects the economy, he said.
"If you don't have savings, you don't make down payments," Zell said. "Therefore, the housing market is affected quite dramatically."