When the housing market rebounds completely, millennials will lead the way. More than two-thirds of first-time homebuyers are millennials, according to the National Association of Realtors, and that makes sense — people under 34 are the most likely first-time homebuyers. But there’s only one problem:
Millennials are just as likely to live in their parents’ home as they are to buy a home right now, the data shows.
Among Americans born between 1981 and 1997, 26% live with family, and 26% own a home, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Pew Research Center, and placed in context on this infographic posted by real estate firm UpNest. Worse yet, even as the economic recovery plods along, this live-at-home-into-your-30s trend is actually growing. In a recent report called “More Millennials Living with Family Despite Improved Job Market,” the Pew Research Center found that 71% of millennials were living independently in 2007, but by 2015, only 67% were. And during the past four years, the share of young adults living with their parents has risen from 24% to 26%.
These are historically low household formation rates. How low?
“In fact, the nation’s 18- to 34-year-olds are less likely to be living independently of their families and establishing their own households today than they were in the depths of the Great Recession,” Pew says.
The problem reaches stubbornly deep into older millennials’ lives, too. In 2014, 14.7% of those aged 25-34 lived with their parents, the highest percentage recorded since the Census Bureau started counting in 1960.
That’s a serious problem for the housing market recovery — and it’s a problem for retailers too, because they aren’t selling the towels, couches and silverware needed by new homeowners.
Mortgage broker and market expert Logan Mohtashami said he sees the impact of delayed household formation every day, but he’s optimistic that the issue is a one-time shift in the way young adults live.
“Everything is moved up a few years,” he said. “(Ages) 28-37 is the key mark for homebuying.” The 21-25-year-old age group is the largest demographic in America, he added. (Here’s a CIA World Factbook age pyramid).
“They still need more time,” he said. “Years 2020-2024 will come bigger numbers.”
Plenty of other data points support this delay theory. Americans are waiting five years longer to get married than they did in 1970, and about four years longer to have children.
Why Millennials Are Taking Their Time
High student loan balances and poor job prospects are frequently blamed for this, but they tell only part of the story. The student loan balance picture is a mixed bag. A study by Goldman Sachs last year showed that graduates with average college loan debt of around $30,000 were no less likely to buy a home than their debt-free peers. On the other hand, one-quarter of all graduate school students owe more than $100,000, which takes most of them out of the homebuying pool. (While a history of on-time student loan payments can boost credit scores, too much debt relative to income can make it difficult to qualify for a mortgage. You can see how your student loan debt is impacting your credit by checking your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com)
Meanwhile, the top-level millennial unemployment rate is hovering near 7.5%, about two percentage points higher than the overall rate. Still high, but down dramatically from the depths of the recession. On the other hand, labor participation rates of millennials are alarmingly low. And millennials’ who graduated during the recession and are working still see lingering impacts in their income. Young workers tend to get raises by changing jobs, an option that wasn’t available to many during the past seven years. Combined with the impact of missing a year or two of earnings due to unemployment, the long-term loss of income can be staggering. FiveThirtyEight.com notes that millennials who graduated during the recession are earning 36% less than peers who graduated in 2007. That’s certainly the difference between living at home and owning a home.
Still, Mohtashami is hopeful the millennial drag will be temporary.
“Three to six years after marriage, college-educated Americans have kids and buy,” he said. “We will have a lot more of them in (2020-2024).”
More on Mortgages & Homebuying:
- Why You Should Check Your Credit Before Buying a Home
- How to Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage
- How to Get a Loan Fully Approved