Millennials Destined to Rent?

From the Denver Post

Millennials in Denver and other cities with pricey housing might find themselves renting for much longer than they imagined possible, according to a new study from Apartment List.

About eight in 10 Denver-area millennials surveyed say they want to buy a home. Of those potential buyers, a similar share expect to buy within five years, with affordability listed as the biggest barrier.

But respondents in some higher-cost housing cities such as San Francisco, Seattle and Denver underestimate the down payment they will need, don’t sock away enough money each month and are at risk of renting for years on end, Apartment List found.

“Home prices in these expensive cities have risen a lot in recent years, and renter expectations may not have caught up yet,” said Andrew Woo, a data scientist at the San Francisco firm, which surveyed more than 30,000 millennials in 93 metro areas and 130 cities.

For example, metro Denver millennials estimated they need to save $26,638 for a down payment on a home. On average, they reported setting aside $171 a month and having saved $3,626. They also expect family and friends to chip in another $2,557.

At that pace, they think it would take about 10 years to reach their self-reported down payment goal.

But those potential homebuyers are undershooting the savings mark by a wide margin, Apartment List said.

Putting 20 percent down on a home at metro Denver’s median price would require setting aside closer to $42,500. At that rate, the millennials in the survey would need to save for 17.7 years to achieve a down payment, estimates Apartment List.

That was the eighth-longest time required of the 93 metro areas studied. Most of the cities with longer wait times were in California.

Millennials in Dallas and Houston need only six years to reach a 20 percent down payment. That’s because home prices there are lower and better aligned with incomes, and potential buyers save more each month.

Woo sees three ways Denver-area millennials might resolve the affordability gap — aside from giving up.

Some might postpone big life decisions and keep saving for as long as it takes, but the social ramifications of that are unknown, Woo said.

Those eager to have children might move to a more affordable housing market. Woo said there are signs that is starting to happen. If so, it will reduce diversity and skew the population in cities such as Denver toward educated, working professionals without children.

The third scenario: Millennials will seek out options with less up-front money, such as mortgages with the Federal Housing Administration that require only 3.5 percent down.

Daren Blomquist, a vice president at RealtyTrac in Irvine, Calif., said the FHA claimed a 6.5 percent share of Denver mortgages in the first quarter versus 15 percent share nationally. The FHA’s market share is rising nationally but falling in Denver.

“That would indicate that in Denver, the low down payment buyers are getting squeezed,” he said.

Woo adds that a lower down payment means a borrower will shoulder more debt, adding to the risk that the borrower and the larger financial system will face.

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