One of the major stereotypes surrounding millennials is that they don’t want to buy homes. You may agree with the Australian mogul who attributed millennials’ difficulty buying starter homes to $19 avocado toast and $4 coffee. Or you may believe that is an unfair characterization of a generation facing staggering student loans—after all, outstanding student loans totaled $1.44 trillion at the start of this year. They’ve also had to contend with a generally unfavorable economy, among other challenges. Either way, it’s undeniable that homeownership across the board is down.
But is it really for lack of wanting? Not necessarily. One survey from Apartment List shows 80 percent of millennial renters want to buy a house, but 72 percent can’t currently afford to do so. That makes sense when you think about all the costs that go into owning a home. While the down payment presents the largest hurdle for new homebuyers, there are property taxes, homeowners insurance premiums and more. Yes, savvy homebuyers can get a free homeowners insurance quote, buy a fixer-upper to avoid high up-front costs or skimp on eating out, but it’s still a significant undertaking.
Furthermore, saying that millennials simply aren’t buying homes is an overgeneralization because the phenomenon varies widely based on geographic location. One recent Abodo report showing where millennials are (and aren’t) buying homes conjures a completely different outlook depending on where you are on the map.
Let’s take a closer look.
Where millennials are buying
Ogden-Clearfield, Utah—a metropolitan area with nearly 550,000 residents as of the 2010 Census—tops the list according to the report. Over half of millennials are homeowners here (51 percent). Here are the top five places with high millennial ownership:
- Ogden-Clearfield, Utah (51 percent)
- Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Mich. (45.3 percent)
- Des Moines-West Des Moines, Iowa (43.6 percent)
- McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas (43.3 percent)
- Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn. (42.4 percent)
You’ll notice a pattern here. These listings mostly represent small- to mid-sized cities nestled far away from either coast, which is part of the reason they differ greatly from the bottom five cities.
Where millennials aren’t buying
Somewhat unsurprisingly, Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, Calif. has the lowest rate of millennial homeownership at under 18 percent. Here are the bottom five areas:
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, Calif. (17.8 percent)
- Urban Honolulu, Hawaii (18.3 percent)
- San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif. (19.8 percent)
- New York-Newark-Jersey City, N.Y. and N.J. (19.8 percent)
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. (20.2 percent)
As you can see, these areas represent some of the most urban and coastal in the country. When you compare the population of the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metropolitan area based on 2010 Census figures (12,828,837) to that of Ogden-Clearfield, Utah (547,184), you see the vast difference. In addition to geographic distance, it’s safe to assume there’s a notable lifestyle difference between places on the two lists.
Other cities with low homeownership rates for people in their twenties and thirties include college towns like Madison, Wis. and Durham, N.C. This makes sense because most students here sign year-long leases and possibly even move away after they graduate, depending on where their careers take them.
So, what’s the takeaway here?
There are places in the U.S. where millennials are (and aren’t) buying homes. Looking at the situation from the perspective of a coastal city alone doesn’t paint the full picture. Property values, lifestyle choices and salaries vary with geography. Similarly, if you’re a millennial in a small Midwestern town, you may feel like you’re the only one out of your friends not buying a house because the homeownership rates are over 40 percent. It’s simply a matter of perspective.