Millennials and Housing: It’s Not All About Avocado Toast
When an Australian millionaire claimed during an interview that millennials aren’t buying homes because they spend too much on “avocado toast,” his comments went viral, spawning several tweets, memes, and articles in rebuttal.
While it’s possible to think that millennials’ extravagant spending habits are to blame for their lack of entry into the housing market—just 34.1% of Americans under 35 own a home—it’s not all about the avocado toast. Millennials face different challenges than their counterparts from earlier generations, many of which have affected their transition into homeownership. But as millennials start hitting their 30s, they are beginning to settle into the traditional milestones of adulthood, including homeownership.
Finances are about more than avocados
The 2008 recession has had broad impacts on the millennial generation that persist even today, nearly a decade later. Some of these impacts have kept millennials away from real estate up until now.
First, the post-recession job market recovered most in dense urban areas like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, areas that traditionally have high prices on both rentals and homes alike. Millennials who flocked to those cities for job opportunities have been spending a significant portion of their incomes on rent, affecting their ability to save up for the down payments needed for likewise pricey homes.
Second, millennials deal with higher student loan burdens than previous generations: the average student loan burden per household hovers near $28,000. While this Nerdwallet study finds that student loan debt doesn’t necessarily deter millennials from homeownership, the combination of high rent and loan payments have made it difficult for this generation to sock away the money needed to afford a traditional 20% down payment and closing costs on a home.
It’s also a difference in values
Throughout their twenties, millennials largely stayed away from homeownership; many preferred to rent for the flexibility that enabled them to change neighborhoods or move to another state for a job opportunity or change in lifestyle if they so desired.
Studies also reveal that, as a generation, millennials are often more money-minded than Boomers and Gen X. 62% of millennials save 5% of their income, even in spite of the factors like student loan debt. Because they work so hard to save, many may be wary of sticking all their savings into one asset – like a home –for fear needing that nest egg for emergencies or big life changes.
But as they age into marriage and longevity in one place, many millennials are now weighing up the opportunity to build equity in a home rather than pouring cash into rent year after year. This money-savvy mentality also means they’re more willing to wait to buy a home in order to get the best deal possible.
Save up for a down payment (without forgoing the avocado toast!)
When millennials do decide to head toward homeownership, saving up for a down payment is often one of the first things they’ll need to take on. There are many programs that allow for down payments as low as 3% of the home’s purchase price, but even putting together a 3% down payment can take some effort.
If you are ready to dive into getting together a down payment, here are some tips to get started:
Pay off high interest debt first. Tackling higher interest debts first means the ability to save faster and in higher increments down the road. For example, credit cards often have much higher interest rates than student loans. If that’s the case, prioritize paying down those credit cards over student loans, even if your student loan balance is higher.
Find “bigger” ways to save. Giving up the avocado toast only goes so far, but selling your car or cutting other big bills (like cable or other subscription services) may make a meaningful difference in how much you can put together for a down payment.
Consider changing jobs. Changing jobs can net a person an equivalent of a 10-20% raise, and most employees only receive 1-3% annually if they stay in their current role. More money earned equals more money saved.
Develop a “side hustle” to make money on top of your 9-5. In the gig economy, it is now easier than ever to make $100+ each month to help pay off debt or save for a home. Freelancing in the evenings or on weekends can add up.
Overhaul your budget. Okay, so maybe you consider giving up avocado toast or pricey happy hours for the short term, or perhaps you give up other indulgences to make room for your weekly brunch-fest. Either way, a budget overhaul helps you figure out what to prioritize and what to put the pause on so you can put away for a future home.