The Reality of Buying a Home as a Millennial
Generational stereotypes are nothing new. Baby boomers used to be the kids who got teased for listening to the Beatles and wearing ripped jeans. Now, they tease millennials for loving their pumpkin spice lattes and social media.
People of all ages can share a lot in common, but there are also many differences between the generations. One of the most significant differences in the financial inequality of millennials compared to baby boomers.
The lack of financial stability for millennials means they tend not to buy the same things baby boomers did at their age. Specifically, young people are less likely to purchase a home, although that’s not for lack of want.
Read on to learn more about the reality of buying a home as a millennial. If you can overcome the systemic challenges separating you from the real estate market, you can take advantage of some strategies to finally purchase that dream home.
The Home-Buying Timeline Is Different
The journey to homeownership starts with education. Even just 30 years ago, many young people believed they only had two life choices: they could go to college before getting married and having kids, or they could skip college and go straight to family life.
Many baby boomers opted to start a family immediately. That’s why studies have shown only 15% of baby boomers earned bachelor’s degrees. At the time, college only cost roughly $3,000 per semester, compared to the $10,000 today’s students spend on average every year at public colleges.
Millennials have accumulated tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. It takes much longer to save up for a home when paying for college represents such a hefty chunk of your monthly bills.
How much longer? A report published by the real-estate firm Unison showed that in 1975, it took baby boomers around nine years to save for a down payment. Millennials now need at least 14 years, which changes depending on the city and state you live in.
Housing Is Hard to Find
Some cities and states struggle to provide enough housing for their growing population of residents. Bigger cities tend to lack housing, whereas rural areas have plenty of housing, but not enough jobs.
San Francisco is an excellent example of the housing crisis. From 2006 to 2016, the Bay Area experienced a 90% growth in tech employment specifically. Millennials are jumping into tech jobs faster than any other industry, but when they move out to places like San Francisco, it’s difficult to even afford rent.
The dream of buying a home is even more impossible to reach when renting feels impossible. Because of the surge in residents, the median price for all housing units in San Francisco just reached $830,000 in 2017, which is unachievable for millennials making less money annually than any generation before them.
Millennials Need a Strategy
Because the idea of owning a house can feel out of the question, millennials may struggle with formulating a strategy for homeownership. What are the first steps, and how can those steps happen? Since baby boomers can only give financial advice relative to their experience, many millennials are turning to housing professionals and fellow struggling millennials to figure out their long-term home-buying plan.
First, Start Saving Your Down Payment
Many millennials aim to save up for a down payment that’s sizable enough to keep monthly mortgage payments low. So many young people live paycheck to paycheck that saving from a single source of income isn’t possible.
That’s why a recent survey reported 36% of millennial homebuyers got a second job to build their down payment. And how much should millennials save? Conventional loans require a 10 to 20% down payment, which doesn’t include the additional price of closing costs.
It’s a solid number to aim for to determine how much you need to save and for how long.
Check Your Credit Score
Millennials should be aware of their credit scores long before they start touring open houses. Personal and student loan debt cause millennials to have lower credit scores than previous generations.
If you become aware of your credit score early on, you can monitor it often to decide what steps you should take to raise it. Credit Karma reports first-time homebuyers in the United States need at least a 684 on their credit score to qualify for a home loan. That standard changes depending on the state, with larger cities requiring higher credit scores.
A higher credit score means you won’t need to set aside as much for a down payment. Still, it’s smart to save more of a down payment than you need. The more you pay upfront, the lower your interest rates will be, and the easier it will be to pay your monthly bills.
Use All Your Options
After growing up amid all the changes in modern technology, millennials are much more comfortable using tech in their home-buying experience than previous generations. Most millennials will browse online listing services like Trulia and Zillow to get an idea of the market they’re dealing with. After finding listings they like and don’t like, they often work with a real estate agent to narrow down their house hunt.
Internet research shows what’s available and what they can expect from homes, but a real estate agent is how millennials learn about things like closing costs, FHA loans, and home appraisals. To save money and not skip important parts of the home-buying process, millennials use everything at their disposal once they’re ready to buy a house.
Home Ownership Is Possible
As much as millennials struggle to overcome unique challenges previous generations didn’t face, they’re still dreaming about owning a home someday. Financial corporation Fannie Mae conducted a survey that showed the majority of millennials want to own a home. Millennials haven’t been slow to achieve homeownership because they reject the idea. It’s because there are many obstacles in their way during that journey.
With the right amount of time and planning, millennial homeownership is possible. Younger people just need some guidance to come up with a strategy that will get them there while understanding their current systemic struggles.
Jennifer Landis is a millennial mom, wife, and is crazy passionate about health and wellness. She writes about it on her blog, Mindfulness Mama. She loves a good cup of tea and enjoys spending her free time running, doing yoga, and watching Doctor Who.