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Lauren Frommer, a jewelry designer, bought her first home in the Cherry Creek neighborhood. A recent study shows that millennials are buying fewer homes than past generations. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)
Lauren Frommer, 28, socked away a fifth of every paycheck and last month purchased a Cherry Creek condo, renting out two of the three rooms to friends who help her cover the mortgage.
“It feels like when you are renting, you are throwing away money,” Frommer said.
But Frommer’s view doesn’t appear to be the most common one among her peers, the millennials born between 1980 and 1997.
Her roommate Kate Braden, also 28, said she prefers the freedom that renting provides, and even Frommer concedes locking in a mortgage seemed frightening at first.
“I’ll start to look at houses when I am ready to settle down,” said Braden, who estimates it will be another five years before she purchases a home.
At the end of last year, only 35.8 percent of adults under age 35 owned their own home, the smallest share in U.S. Census Bureau records dating back to 1982.
A decade ago, 43.1 percent of adults in that age range owned a home, and much of the decline in U.S. homeownership rates falls squarely with young adults who are delaying purchases.
“Most young people still aspire to own a home, but the question is that it is becoming more difficult,” said Andrew Woo, a data scientist with Apartment List, a San Francisco-based apartment listing service.
At some point
Apartment List surveyed nearly 6,000 adults age 18 to 34 who were renting and found nearly three out of four expected to purchase a home at some point.
But only a quarter expected to do so in the next two years, and more than half don’t expect to own a home until 2018 or beyond.
Woo cites a variety of reasons of why millennials are delaying home purchases. Many graduated with heavy student loan debts and are struggling to find stable employment and incomes, leaving them less able to qualify for a mortgage.
They are marrying later, reducing another important motivation to purchase a home. And some were turned off by the housing market after seeing family members go through foreclosures.
One school of thought is that they eventually will own, just at a later age than previous generations, and the pent-up demand will drive home sales for years to come.
But another view is that many in that generation could find themselves trapped renting, reducing their ability to accumulate wealth and secure a stable retirement.
“The future housing decisions of millennials will have a major impact on the economy,” Woo said.
Millennials who were married, who had a college degree or earned higher incomes were more likely to say they wanted to buy. But in an interesting twist, those with advanced degrees, and thus more student loan debt, were less likely to say they planned to buy.
Not unexpectedly, the older millennials were, the more likely they were to indicate they would buy a home in the near future.
Miami, St. Louis, San Francisco, Boston and New York and San Jose, Calif., were cities where millennials expected to become home owners at a lower rate.
Cincinnati, Atlanta, Denver, Washington and Austin, Texas, were among the metro areas where millennials expressed a higher interest in buying.
When housing costs are very high, as in Manhattan, renters are more likely to resign themselves to not purchasing a home.
In Denver, 81 percent of millennial renters surveyed said they wanted to buy a home at some point.
Denver is interesting in that it is starting to look like more expensive housing markets where rising costs outstrip incomes. But renters still aspire to buy a home at rates seen in more affordable housing markets, Woo said.
A Bloomberg survey last month ranked Denver among 13 U.S.cities with the widest gaps between what millennials make and what a home costs.
The median millennial salary of $39,492 in Denver was $2,620 short a year of the minimum salary needed to buy the median home, including saving up a 20 percent downpayment.
While Denver’s gap wasn’t as extreme as the ones found in many part of California, it highlights the risk that the metro area could lose its appeal with young adults going forward.
Living in the now
Frommer previously worked in the natural resources industry before becoming a jewelry designer and said the industry’s instability motivated her to lock in a home.
But she admits others her age seem much less concerned with saving for the future than living for the moment. Why save for a down payment when there are concerts to see and trips to make?
Braden, who grew up in a military family that moved a lot, said she has the income to take on a mortgage but prefers the freedom and flexibility that renting provides.
“I would have a house commitment issue,” she said.
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