Where are millennials moving? The answer may surprise you
It’s no secret that young people are getting married and starting families later in life than their parents did. It is, however, a bit of a secret where they are choosing to settle down.
Big cities and their big employers have always attracted young workers, and that’s still true. But a combination of factors—sky-high home prices chief among them—have sent millennials across the country looking for alternatives. Unlikely places like Ohio and North Dakota have benefitted.
The Millennial Effect on the Market
Older millennials (aged 25 to 34) make up 13.6% of the US population but 30% of the current population of existing-home buyers, according to Realtor.com. Where they move matters to the real estate market.
Ellie Mae, a mortgage data firm, has a Millennial Tracker that highlights which towns have high percentages of mortgages closed by millennials. That data, in turn, can help future homebuyers and real estate professionals alike identify new, accessible housing markets.
Top 11 Cities for Millennial Home Buyers
In six US cities, millennials actually make up more than half of home buyers. Some of these places are so small they aren’t even served by an interstate highway.
Here are the top 11 cities that millennials are moving to, according to Ellie Mae:
Why Millennials Are Moving
Understanding where millennials are buying homes is important both to the housing industry and to young people looking for alternatives to oppressive monthly mortgage payments.
“As millennials continue to enter the housing market, we are seeing great activity in the middle of the US, where inventory is generally more affordable than on the coasts,” says Joe Tyrrell, executive vice president of corporate strategy for Ellie Mae.
Tyrrell offered the example of top city for millennial homebuyers—Athens, Ohio. The the average home loan in Athens was nearly one-third the average home loan in Boston, Massachusetts.
Using the traditional 30%-of-income affordability standard, about one-third of households have unaffordable mortgage payments, according to a recent report from Harvard University. What’s more, the number of severely cost-burdened homeowners—those who spend 50% or more of their income on their mortgage—has skyrocketed from 1.1 million in 2001 to 7.6 million in 2015.
Numbers like that have young people considering homes in smaller places.
In Athens, Ohio, the average listed home price is $189,000, far less than the national median listing price of $259,000, according to Zillow.com. But home price isn’t the only factor. The ability to save up for a down payment matters, too.
“The main thing that jumps out to me is that those are all relatively affordable cities. Lower rents allow millennials to save for a down payment,” says Andrew Woo of ApartmentList.com. Indeed, according to Zillow, one-bedroom apartments in Athens cost $750 a month. “Generally, pricey urban areas such as San Francisco and New York have a large share of renters, as homeownership is out of reach for most, and many millennials plan to settle down and purchase a home in a different metro,” notes Woo.
Other Millennial Moving Lists
The Ellie Mae list reveals only cities where a high percentage of millennials are buyers—not necessarily places that are popular with younger adults. More mundane explanations, like demographics, play a role in statistics like this, too. The younger a population, the higher the percentage of millennial buyers.
There are plenty of other “where are millennials moving” lists. Different methodologies reach different results, but the overall narrative is the same.
The Urban Land Institute, calculating relative growth of the millennial population, said earlier this year that Virginia Beach, Richmond, and Pittsburgh were among the hottest destinations for millennials. That list tells a similar story, however. Of traditional large coastal cities, only Boston cracked the top 10.
SmartAsset.com made its own list, too. New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco don’t crack the top 25. Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Cary, North Carolina, on the other hand, made the top 10.
ATTOM Data Solutions, using a different set of criteria, shared another list of places popular with young home buyers—cities where the highest percentage of FHA loans (and their low down payments) have closed. It’s also full of smaller towns in Texas, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania.
“Millennials are a massive generation, the largest now in fact, and they certainly don’t act in a monolithic manner,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president of ATTOM. “So when we see increases in home sales to millennials in places like Lima, Ohio, or Pottsville, Pennsylvania, what it doesn’t necessarily mean is that there is a broad migration of millennials to small towns. But what it does mean is that there are millennials who are willing to move to small towns, likely because they are finding jobs there and they are finding a much more affordable cost of living, particularly when it comes to housing.”
So wherever millennials are headed, one thing is certain: affordability is more important than ever. Fortunately, tools like Credit.com’s Mortgage Calculator and Mortgage Marketplace can help make housing more affordable no matter the location.
This article originally appeared on Credit.com.