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{ask a millennial} Where Are We With the Journey to Homeownership?

by Leslie Fowle | Nov 01, 2017
When you look at the research, you’ll find many differing opinions on where millennials stand on the “American Dream” of owning a home. The truth is, many of us are not homeowners yet—but not because we don’t want to be. Student loans, lack of starter homes, and astronomical prices are holding us back in many markets.
For me, I rent because I value my proximity to the city  while I’m still in grad school and I can’t afford a home in (or even near) Boston. However, I wanted to get some feedback from my peers. My friend group represents a virtually perfect cross-section of the generation: a few homeowners in suburbs, many renters in the city and some living with their parents. I started a “round-table” conversation the typical millennial way—via text—to take my friends’ temperature on homeownership. Read our enlightening group chat below.  

: Is homeownership important to you? Why or why not?

Alexandra: It’s not important for me. I love the flexibility that comes with renting. It gives me career flexibility—if  I wanted to move to D.C. tomorrow and change careers, I could.

Mike: Yes, it is. To me, it is one of those things that remains one of the pillars of the American Dream. I would like to buy something that I can invest in and reap the rewards myself, not a landlord. However, I’m not about to do this tomorrow or even next year. It’s something I would want to do when I have the financial and career stability that I know would keep me in one place for a while. It’s at the vague end of the 5-10 year plan I have right now. 

Shawn: Owning a home would be nice, but I like the flexibility of renting right now while I figure my career out. The hangover from the 2008 financial crisis looms as a reminder about living within your means and not just taking on a mortgage to gain equity. 

Joe: I’d like to eventually own a home. I want to be able to modify my living space without having to check in with a landlord. As an architect, that’s something that’s really important to me.

Leslie: What steps are you taking now to own a home  one day, 

Alexandra: We haven’t taken any real step toward homeownership. Currently, the financial burden from student loans makes it a bit daunting to think about adding a mortgage to that existing debt. I had a financial planner describe student loans as a fixed cost of living to me once. I am not in a position to add another.

Mike: I’ve paid off student loans and have been working to set aside a little bit of money from each paycheck in a separate savings account for a long-term play, like owning a home. I’ve invested a large part of that to not be touched for a few years so that I can have it when  I’m ready.

Shawn: I also have some student loans left. I’d like to be debt-free and to travel before I settle down for the long-term with a mortgage.

Joe: I haven’t made any real efforts toward saving for a home on account of student loans and the cost of living in the city. I’ll probably use my 401K on a down payment if needed. 

Leslie: Are you thinking about what type of home you want one day?

Shawn: That is a bit abstract for me right now, but I know I don’t want anything big or flashy. I want my home to be representative of my values: functionality and efficiency. I’m drawn to less expensive materials that get the job done and conserve energy. Also, less space to heat and cool mean savings on energy bills. 

Mike: I’m not looking for a white picket fence, but I would like something I can invest in. I’m not concerned with size. I just like the idea of something that is truly my space.