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Millennials Buying In The Burbs: Why They’re On The Move

Knee figure of a couple of young beautiful caucasian woman and man strolling outdoor in the city back light, holding a tablet, looking downward and tapping the screen - love, technology, communication concept

It’s easy to picture the young millennial in their late 20’s buying a home in the city, right in the middle of all the hustle and bustle of cosmopolitan life. But a new report on home buying trends from the National Association of Realtors suggests that when millennials are ready to buy, more of them are becoming suburban dwellers and purchasing homes beyond the city limits. In fact, millennials comprised 35% of home buyers last year, giving them the largest share of any generational group.

What’s driving them?

A better question is what’s driving them out of town. NAR’s report finds that once a millennial closes in on their 30’s, they often find that buying a home in the city comes with too high of a price tag and that they can get more for their money in the suburbs. As a result, just 17% of millennials bought a home in an urban area last year, down from 21%. A lack of affordable homes on the market in the city is forcing their hand to expand their search geographically.

Suddenly, in a suburban home, millennials find that they don’t have to sacrifice as much space in a home that offers them an extra bathroom, perhaps a little bit bigger kitchen, a yard and actual space to park a car or two. For millennial couples, having this kind of space is key as they think about the next stage of their lives in having children who can grow into the home.

Still, what about the fact that millennials may have jobs in the city and the costs of commuting? At least for now, that’s less of an issue as the price of gas is highly reasonable overall. That decreased hit to the wallet brings down another financial barrier for the suburbs.

Beyond the buyer, the suburbs themselves are changing. More than ever, outposts of popular city restaurants, bars and retail stores have found their way to the suburbs. The stereotypical quiet life of suburban dwelling doesn’t necessarily apply to certain areas that offer solid options for dining and entertainment. So, depending on the area, potential millennial home buyers are pleasantly surprised to find that they don’t have to sacrifice as much on that front.

What about their student loans as a barrier to buying?

Yes, we’ve remarked in past articles how millennials may be pushing off home buying and other major life events due to student loan concerns. That’s still true in that they’re postponing saving for a down payment by an average of three years.

However, a surprising finding from the study is that Gen X and younger boomers have even more debt on average to confront than millennials – their debt being related more to credit card debt than student loans. This makes a 20% down payment on a home challenging for a variety of generations, not just millennials.

As they move into these more affordable homes in the suburbs, millennials don’t want to be “house poor” as a result of high-priced renovations. But they do desire certain upgrades that won’t break the bank and aren’t major disruptions to implement. That’s where contractors who improve the look of kitchens and bathrooms through refinishing can offer millennial home buyers the affordable upgrade of a bathtub or countertop that looks good as new. And they can start enjoying this attractive feature of the room much sooner as they begin a new phase of their lives as home buyers.

Dani Nichols

I started out with NAPCO in 1996, shortly after it was purchased by Steve Coven. Both Steve and I shared a vision of growth for NAPCO. Always hungry for knowledge, I learned whatever I needed including sales, marketing, web development, operations management, HR, building and retaining a customer base. Whew! It has been a lot of fun because in the end, I really like working with our customers. They make it all worthwhile for me.

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