The Next Generation of Homebuyers

by Anthony SanFilippo

The Next Generation

Millennials and gen-Xers are definitely the product of different times and life experiences.

However, when it comes to real estate, millennials are actually following in the footsteps of their generational predecessors.

A 2016 report by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) shows that not only are millennials the fastest-growing demographic in purchasing homes, but that they are also buying single family homes in the suburbs like the gen-Xers for the past 15 years.

“Some millennials may not want to admit it, but they are aging,” said Jessica Lautz, managing director of Survey Research and Communication for NAR’s research division. “A lot of them are in their 30s now and are either looking to start a family, or already have, and they have young children and they need a bigger home or want a specific school district.”

While 67% of millennial homebuyers still purchased their first home in 2015 – down only slightly from 68% in 2014 – that means that one-third of the millennial home-buying population is onto at least a second home.

And those homes tend to be older, suburban homes – a far cry from the concept of buying new construction or residing in trendy urban areas.

Affordability Matters

According to the 2016 survey, only 11% of millennials purchased a new home in the last year – a historical low. As for buying in the ‘burbs? It comes down to that wily veteran decision-maker that previous generations have leaned on heavily in these instances – cost efficiency.


“The suburbs are a little cheaper than the city. Millennials are buying the same type of home they likely grew up in and then tried to move away from when they were fresh out of college.”


“Affordability is the key,” Lautz said. “The suburbs are a little cheaper than the city. Millennials are buying the same type of home they likely grew up in and then tried to move away from when they were fresh out of college.”

Student debt is one of many hurdles younger homebuyers are seeking more affordable housing options, but data shows that it’s not the millennials who are feeling the pinch on the housing market as much as it is the gen-Xers.

Gen-Xers Are Staying Put

Gen-Xers were most likely to buy their first home during the housing boom, and therefore most likely to be hit during the housing crisis. This has led to gen-Xers having longer tenures in their first homes than the baby boomers before them.

Data research shows that home tenure has grown to about 10 years on average compared to arrange of six-to-seven years at the turn of the century.


Gen-Xers are more likely to be struggling financially than their millennial counterparts.


Additionally, Lautz said that 31% of people who purchased a home in the past 10 years said they would have liked to have sold their house sooner, but couldn’t because the house was still underwater.

Combined with the fact that they likely still have student loan debt, credit card debt and child care costs, gen-Xers are more likely to be struggling financially than their millennial counterparts.

The “20% Down” Myth

However, regardless of generation, the struggle to find a down payment for a home – whether it’s a first home or an upgrade, is often clouded by the misnomer that 20% of the cost of the home is needed to buy a house.

Not so.

“This is why it’s really important to talk to a REALTOR or other real estate expert,” Lautz said. “There is certainly a fear of reaching out among the younger generation. Instead, they’d rather start their real estate research online. That doesn’t surprise us. But if you talk to someone who is trained in this market, you can find there are programs that allow you to purchase a home with as little as five percent down.”

As we enter 2017, NAR is continuing to track trends in the market. More targeted data within specific demographics can help identify the needs of certain individuals to try to make buying a home – whether for the first time or the fifth time – a lot less anxious.

“There is a rise in single female homebuyers because the rate of marriage has dropped,” Lautz said. “We’re tracking veteran home buying and active military home buying. We never looked at them before but they are proving to be a significant share of the homebuying population. And we are starting to track LGBT home buying as well.

“All of these changing demographics are shifting the home buying process and changing what the home buyers are looking for as well.”

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