When one tries to Google the phrase “millennials and mortgages,” something curious happens. Two different – and in some cases, mutually exclusive sounding – accounts of millennials and their home-buying habits, or lack thereof, emerge.
Millennials are either dragging down the housing market because they can’t/won’t buy houses, or millennials are both leading the modern mortgage market and simultaneously leading it into the digital age.
It’s a lot of apparently contradictory data about a rising generation of consumers that is often discussed, but not nearly as often well-understood. The upshot is that millennials are buying houses – but not at the rates that consumers in the same age cohort have historically bought homes.
“Historically low mortgage rates and increasingly favorable employment conditions should have generated a far greater number of home purchases by young adults, especially in the last five years,” said Sam Khater, chief economist at Freddie Mac.
And the fact that they haven’t has turned up a lot of data, revealing that the market for millennial real estate consumers remains an extremely uneven and, for many, rather uncertain place.
The Complex Demographic
Born between 1980 and 2000 (roughly), the millennial generation is a sharply age-bifurcated place, despite the common habit of talking about millennials as though they are a fairly homogeneous group when they really aren’t.
Younger millennials – those born between 1989 and the year 2000 – are still in their 20s, in some cases still in college and mostly new to the adult world of work and commerce. They aren’t buying houses – but even historically speaking, college students and recent grads have never been an incredibly highly active share of the housing market.
Older millennials – born before 1988 – are in their 30s, have spent longer in their careers, and are more likely to have gotten married and started families. PYMNTS, in a study of that older subset of millennials – bridge millennials – found that their spending, saving and general interests are very distinct, both from their younger fellows in the millennial generation and the population at large. Those consumers are buying houses, and are a driving force in some markets. The conventional wisdom of a few years ago – that the millennial generation had evolved beyond homeownership – has not exactly been proven.
“Millennials are shaping the market more than anyone realized. In fact, half of all buyers are under 36 and half of sellers are under 41,” said Zillow Chief Marketing Officer Jeremy Wacksman, referring to results from a survey of more than 13,000 homeowners, sellers, buyers and renters that were part of the Zillow Group Report on Consumer Housing Trends.
But while millennials may be driving the real estate markets, data released by the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center indicates that generationally speaking, they are participating in the homeownership markets less, with an ownership rate running 8 percent to 9 percent behind previous generations.
Why that is the case is broken down over dozens of factors, including income, race, education level, marital status, region, city and parental homeownership status, to name a handful of the most oft-cited data points. In general, the data agrees that when it comes to homeownership, the majority of millennial sellers are white, college-educated, earning a household income over $100,000 and have parents who own homes.
The data across sources also seems to agree that, despite programs like FHA that are designed to lower the initial costs…