Not long ago, some poor soul suggested (and probably instantly regretted) the reason millennials can’t afford to buy homes is because they spend too much money on avocado toast. While the digital outcry from millennials was instantly indignant, that indigence may have been justified.
Home ownership is difficult to achieve if you belong to the generation with $1.4 trillion dollars in student loan debt. However, it isn’t impossible for millennials to achieve the quintessential American dream of home ownership. While the median home price is roughly 1000 percent higher than it was when our grandparents bought their first homes right out of high school or trade school 50 years ago, there are many ways millennials can prepare themselves for home ownership, and none of them involve selling a kidney.
Create a realistic budget.
If you haven’t already done so, now is a good time to sit down with your finances and budget in order to figure out how much house you can actually afford. Many times, a lender will pre-qualify you for a larger amount than you can really afford, so it’s important to be realistic about the amount of mortgage you can afford to pay every month.
In order to save enough money to put a down payment on a home, you’ll need to make sacrifices, and that may include not splurging on a new outfit or even a new car. Learning to live minimally can help pad your personal profit margins enough to get you into a home of your own.
Understand this is not your forever home.
While we all want to buy our dream home right off the bat, that’s not always possible for a variety of reasons. Just know that the average homeowner will buy three homes in their lifetime, so you can always upgrade down the line.
Rock the suburbs.
While it’s important to be close to family, good jobs, or (to some) a lively social scene, consider buying a home in a slightly more suburban or rural area, where property tends to be cheaper. Bonus: your dogs will have more space to run around and play, and so will you.
Take advantage of federal programs.
In order to stimulate the number of first-time homebuyers in the U.S., the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) offers first-time home-buyers the opportunity to buy a home with just 3 percent down, which is a very attainable amount to save.
Join the military.
Not only is the military an incredible opportunity to provide an invaluable service to your country, it’s also a door to valuable financial benefits from the federal government in the long run. You have the option of using the V.A. loan program more than once, though you may not have more than one V.A. loan at a time. Additionally, the money received from your so-called “G.I. Bill” can help you save money for a down payment.
Check with your state.
Some states offer complementary or supplemental programs for first time home buyers beyond the federal FHA program. Check with your state to see if you qualify for additional grants or subsidies.
Even though millennials already struggle to make ends meet as one of the most underemployed generations, for those who are currently only working one job, there are many ways to rake in additional cash. Consider a freelance writing gig, driving for a rideshare service, or signing up to run errands for people.
Pay off your student debt.
Don’t laugh! It’s definitely possible. If you have more than one student loan, determine which one has the highest interest rate. Then, increase your monthly payments to that loan while making the smallest payments possible to your other loans. This is known as the avalanche method, and it can help you pay off your debt faster. Then, once you’ve paid off the loan with the highest interest rate, you can devote more money to the others while actually saving yourself interest.
Choose a less populated state.
These days, it seems like all millennials want to live near the mountains or in cities with really good food. Of course, this comes at a price: a potential lifetime of renting. Consider moving to a state with a smaller population where you’ll have a higher chance of being able to afford a home. This may not be ideal, but it’s all about what’s most important to you. If owning your own home tops that list, then geographic location might not matter to you as much.
Tap into your inheritance early.
While not everyone’s parents are in a financial position to help them with a down payment on a home, the generation of parents who raised millennials (or their parents), the baby boomers, are the richest generation in U.S. history. Consider asking your parents for financial assistance.
Borrow from a retirement fund.
While some financial experts would advise you to proceed with caution on this point, it’s possible to tap into your retirement fund in order to make a down payment on a home. Just remember that any withdrawals you make before a certain age (usually 55) could incur penalties. However, if your 401K or IRA has a sizable chunk of change in it, that might be your best bet.
Jack up your credit score.
While even a perfect credit score couldn’t buy you a house, it could lower your interest rate enough for you to be able to afford a mortgage payment every month. If your credit isn’t in the best shape, consider enlisting the help of a credit repair service, which can help increase your credit score and unlock some of the best interest rates available today.
Do your homework.
Before making any type of financial plan or decision, make sure you do your research in order to be as home-savvy as possible. This can help you navigate tough housing markets by preparing you for what’s to come.
Understand the fluidity of the housing market.
By the time you’re ready to actually begin shopping for a home, the landscape may have changed. It’s a fickle thing to begin with, so it changes often. Just ten years ago, we were in a national housing crisis, and today we have seemingly recovered from that.