Millenial home owners Blake Smith and Anne Wrobetz have owned their Longmont home for seven months. | Lewis Geyer | Getty Images
Millennial homeowners have a bad case of buyer’s remorse, according to a new survey.
Nearly two-thirds, or 63 percent, of millennial homeowners surveyed by Bankrate.com said they had regrets about buying. That is more than any other age group, defined in the survey as people aged 23 to 38, and nearly double the regret rate of baby boomers. Overall, about 44 percent of U.S. homeowners say they have regrets about their purchase.
Millennials have been slow to enter the ranks of homeowners, thanks to the last recession and the housing crash that caused it. Now, as they age into marriage and parenthood, they are buying at a faster pace. Many, however, are regretting it.
What seems to irk millennials most is maintenance. They didn’t factor in the high costs of fixing what breaks. Young buyers may have been renters previously, and not even considered maintenance since it was never a factor financially.
“Repairs and maintenance costs are something all homeowners face,” said Bankrate analyst Deborah Kearns. “Consumers should expect to set aside 1 percent of their home’s purchase price each year to keep in a savings account to cover these expenses. Budgeting early on can prevent dipping into emergency savings or going into debt to handle these added expenses.”
Other regrets include the type and location of the home purchased. About 12 percent of those surveyed said the house they bought was too small, while 5 percent said it was too large. Despite the old real estate adage, “location, location, location,” 8 percent said they bought in the wrong location.
Some of the problem may stem from millennials being much more likely to use social media in their home searches than any other generation. More than 57 percent do just that – which is three times the rate of both Gen Xers and baby boomers, according to a recent survey by Porch, a home repair and renovation website. Only about 30 percent of millennials even visited their desired neighborhood to look at homes listed for sale.
‘A recipe for disaster’
Today’s buyers have the benefit of low mortgage rates but the strong headwinds of high home prices. That may be why other common regrets were that the purchase was a “poor investment” and that the mortgage payments were too high. Some said they did not get the best rate available.
“Taking on a larger mortgage payment than you can comfortably handle is a recipe for disaster,” Bankrate’s Kearns added. “Spend a few minutes using a mortgage calculator to determine what you can afford, and shop around with at least three different lenders to ensure you’re getting the best rates and terms.”
There are ample options for potential buyers online to research rates, calculate payments and understand what type of loan would be best. A lot of the regret might be alleviated by more work upfront.
Still part of the ‘American Dream’
Despite all the regret, a full 79 percent of Americans still consider homeownership part of the “American Dream,” according to Bankrate. Unfortunately, millennials struggle most with the burden of student loan debt, and are more than three times as likely as older Americans to blame that debt for sidelining them from homeownership.
“Now it’s debatable how student loan debt is playing into millennial options because presumably the reason why they’re in student loan debt is because millennials have invested in their education, which over time means higher wage growth and they can move into professional jobs,” said Nela Richardson, a senior financial analyst at Edward Jones. “So in previous decades there has been a positive correlation between homeownership and student loan debt.”
High rents are also keeping some from saving for a down payment, and home prices have been rising faster than wages, only adding to the financial roadblocks.
The homeownership rate for those under 35 was just 36.5 percent in the last quarter of 2018, compared with 61 percent for those aged 35 to 44, and 70 percent for those aged 45 to 54, according to the U.S. Census. The millennial homeownership rate actually dropped in the fourth quarter compared with the third quarter, but was unchanged year over year.