Why Are Millennials Rejecting Homeownership? Or Are They?

Last modified on June 26th, 2024

It’s beginning to look like enticing 25- to 34-year olds into purchasing their first home won’t be easy. According to CoreLogic, homeownership rates for this group pale in comparison to the 1980’s rates for the same age bracket. In 1980, slightly more than 50% owned, or were buying, their homes. In 2012, just over a third (38%) of Millennials owned homes.

But, just looking at the percentage of current mortgages doesn’t present an accurate picture of what young adults in the United States are doing across the nation. California based mortgage lender Carrington Mortgage Service took a closer look at what factors motivates some Generation Rent members to shelter in place while others embrace homeownership.

It appears where they live plays a critical role in the decision-making process.

Interest rates are still low, hovering around 4%, but interest rates may not be the best indicator of who buys and who rents. The national mortgage interest average in the early 1980’s (as determined by Bankrate.com) was 18-20%.

Carrington’s survey found a strong correlation between down payment averages and homeownership rates for this group. In areas where down payment requirements exceed the national average, fewer Millennials are willing to take the plunge.

For example, western states – California, New Mexico, Washington, Utah, Montana, Alaska and six other states – reported an average down payment far above the national average. While the national average (according to a 2014 RealtyTrac market survey) was 14% of the purchase price, Millennial migrations for work often led the group to areas where lenders and market conditions demanded much larger down payment investments. Take the San Francisco, California area as an example. Down payments ranged from 27.81% to 30.01% for high-end homes, that’s roughly two times the national average.

There are bright spots for these young adults looking to buy their first homes. Although Millennials paid an average of 3% more down to qualify for a mortgage in 2014, some found places like Des Moines, Little Rock, Arkansas and Columbus, Ohio quite affordable. Two Ohio counties, Ashtabula and Clark, were ranked in the top five markets with the lowest down payment averages in the lowest-priced markets, 9.68% and 9.56% respectively.

Interest rates and down payment requirements aside, there are still some common factors keeping Millennials in the renter pool. Student loan debt, high credit card balance, low FICO scores and a general anxiety about how to even start the buying process keep some renewing the lease every year.

In the same way that location impacts cost of living and property values, perception varies widely among Millennials depending on where they live. In the northeast, the biggest financial concern keeping respondents from applying for a mortgage was credit card debt. Nationally only 14% of those surveyed perceived credit card debt as the most important factor. In the southern states, respondents worried most about low credit scores and navigating the buying process.

Carrington’s survey showed that some put off buying a home in the Midwest because they typically earn lower wages. When they look at adding a mortgage payment to the formula that already includes student debt burdens and lower salaries, the debt-to-ratio looks overwhelming.

Delving into the data shows that Millennials are still thinking about homeownership, in fact, 50% think they’ll buy in the next two years. It’s interesting to note that although this cohort shares many things in common, when it comes to making the commitment to a mortgage many factors are holding them back. The Carrington survey highlights the reality that location is still one of the primary factors driving home sales, especially for 25- to 34-year olds.


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