November 20, 2020

Millennials feeding 'Zoom' towns

Long viewed as perennial renters -either unwilling or unable to buy - the "Millennial" generation is now the driving force in the exploding U.S. housing market.

Many people between the ages of 25 and 40 are leaving the cities and moving to buy houses in more affordable cities and suburbs. Real estate journalists have dubbed these growth areas as "Zoom towns" because they are growing in direct response to the growth of remote work.

In basically every metropolitan area, you find the most price competition on the outskirts of that area and the least in the city center. Spacious, single-family homes are particularly in demand.

People between the ages of 25 and 40 made up 38% of all home buyers in the fiscal year that ended July 2019, up from 32% in 2015, according to the National Association of Realtors. The way things are going, that could top 40% in 2020 or 2021.

Steeped in the foreclosure culture of the Great Recession, many Millennials previously shied from ownership, choosing housing flexibility and mobility over commitment. But now, many are getting married and raising children- although they put it off longer than members than previous generations.

The growing demand for housing is compounded by Generation Z, who are in their teens to mid-20s. From early returns, it appears this tech-bred and investment-savvy cohort is more akin to make life decisions like their much older predecessors.

Economists say buyers under 35 could be responsible for at least 15 million home sales in the next decade.

Despite rising prices, a median-priced home is more affordable in 2020 than 2019 due to ultra-low interest rates. In the second quarter of 2020, a family needed less than $50,000 to afford a home in 130 of measured 181 metro areas, assuming a 20% down payment.

A household with a median family income of $82,471 spent 14.8% of its income on mortgage payments. This is less than the fraction spent on housing in the prior quarter (15.1%) and one year ago (16.4%). Housing expenses are considered a cost burden if they consume more than 30% of income.

The monthly mortgage payment on a typical home purchase financed with a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage and a 20% down payment rose slightly to $1,019 compared to $995 in the first quarter. However, this total is still below the level seen one year ago, $1,078.