If you’re thinking about buying a house in 2017, you might be a Millennial.
According to the National Association of Realtors 2017 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Survey, Millennials have begun buying homes.
It helps to know who falls into which generation: The eldest Americans are part of the so-called Silent Generation (born 1925 to 1945). Next comes a split in demographics between Older Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1954) and younger Baby Boomers (born 1955 to 1964). Gen-X (born 1965 to 1979) and Gen-Y, also known as Millennials (born 1980 to 1998) round out the generations who are actively buying a home.
(Gen-Z, also known as “Digital Kids,” is the latest generation of Americans, but are not included in the NAR survey since they’re not old enough to buy a home.)
Each of the generations has their own distinct characteristics, this year’s survey confirmed. But the big news is that Millennials are finally buying houses – and are starting to look like other home buying generations, albeit at a later age.
According to the survey, Millennials account for 34 percent of all homebuyers. Forty-nine percent have children under the age of 18, 66 percent are buying their first home, and 85 percent think buying a home is a good investment.
Contrast those rosy numbers with the characteristics that define Gen-X homebuyers, 14 percent of whom had a distressed sale in the past, 21 percent of whom wanted to sell earlier but was held back by a lack of equity, 27 percent of whom have student loan debt (an average of $30,000, the highest amount in any of the generations surveyed) and who make up 28 percent of recent home buyers.
The survey also found that homebuyers are more likely to buy multi-generational homes. Younger Baby Boomers and Gen-X buyers are increasingly having their adult children living with them, while Millennial homebuyers are starting to purchase homes in the suburbs, as they look for school districts to accommodate their growing families.
The biggest problem for homebuyers continues to be a lack of inventory. According to NAR Chief Economist, Lawrence Yun, the lack of inventory stems from Gen-X homeowners who bought their homes near the height of the housing boom, and lived through the substantial loss of equity. But now, Yun says, a much stronger job market and 41 percent cumulative rise in home prices since 2011 have helped a growing number build enough equity to finally sell and trade up to a larger home.
“More Gen X sellers are expected this year and are definitely needed to ease the inventory shortages in much of the country,” he added.
Addressing the low homeownership rate, Yun noted that increasing rents combined with the repaying of student loan debt had put homeownership out of reach for younger buyers.
“The job market is very healthy for young adults with a college education, but repaying student debt and dealing with ever-increasing rents on an entry-level salary are forcing many to either shack-up with several roommates or move back home,” said Yun. “This growing trend of delayed household formation is one of the main contributors to the nation’s low homeownership rate.”
But the Realtors remain, as always, optimistic about the future of homeownership in America, noting 85 percent of Millennials believe that buying a home is a good investment.
Ilyce Glink is an award-winning columnist, blogger and book author. She is also the Publisher of ThinkGlink.com and the Founder/CEO of Best Money Moves.