Why Millennials Aren't Rushing Into Homeownership

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By Vera Gibbons

The housing recovery may be well underway, but this recovery is virtually millennial-free. In fact, according to Census Bureau data, from 2006-2011, Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 experienced the largest decline in homeownership rates in the country.

We all know the obvious and primary factors behind this decline. These so-called millennials -- mostly the children of baby boomers -- are saddled with student loan debt. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimates that of the roughly $1.4 trillion that Americans owe on school loans, 67 percent of it is owed by people younger than 40. They've also got a few thousand dollars in credit card debt, and many are either unemployed or underemployed. With home values skyrocketing and mortgage rates hovering near a two-year high and still climbing, median wages haven't kept pace and now millennials can no longer afford homeownership.

This issue has gained the attention of policymakers nationwide. President Obama weighed in on the need for more affordable, quality housing as well as many other housing issues affecting millennials in a recent discussion moderated by Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff. But here are some of the more personal reasons these traditional first-time buyers -- America's largest generation -- are not getting in:

1. They don't like what they've seen: Millennials have seen their parents struggle firsthand. And they've seen their neighbors lose their homes, too. As a result, they're nervous they could find themselves in a similar position -- and all too easily. After all, when you buy on credit, you're required to make regular payments, regardless of whether you lose your job, your business or are up against unexpected medical expenses. This has many millennials on edge, particularly given the state of the job market.

2. It's easier with mom and dad: A study from Pew Research reveals that 36 percent of millennials (or 1 in 3) are still living under their parents' roof. Not since the 1960s have so many young adults (a record 21.6 million) resorted to living at home. And while this trend is driven by a combination of economic, educational and cultural factors, there is a personal reason, too. And it has nothing to do with lack of rent money. By moving back home -- a situation that is no longer considered shameful, by the way -- many millennials get amenities/perks that don't typically come with a cheap starter apartment, including food, gas, laundry service, cleaning, job advice and more. No wonder more than 78 percent of millennials living with their parents are satisfied with the arrangement! What's not to like?

3. They value mobility: No doubt, this generation is on the go! And while the vast majority say they would like to own a home at some point, it's certainly not a priority now, especially given the changing work environment. In fact, these days, being geographically flexible (taking freelance projects, short-term gigs and other job opportunities as they become available) may be one of the more valuable tools for earning a stable income. And the reality is that owning a house - and thus being tied down - could limit a millennial's ability to advance his/her professional life.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

More from Zillow:
Is Homeownership Still the American Dream?
Tips for Gen X and Gen Y Home Buyers
5 Questions to Ask Before Making a Lowball Offer

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