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Millennials and Gen Zers Do Want to Buy Homes—They Just Can't Afford It, Even as Adults

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You've probably heard some variation of this question time and time again over the past decade: "Why aren't young people buying houses anymore?" The answer, according to a recent survey, is simple: money.

Most members of the Gen Z and millennial generations – U.S. adults between the ages of 18-25 and 26-41, respectively – do want to own a home someday, or even right now. Their biggest roadblock is affordability, respondents said in a March Bankrate survey conducted by research firm YouGov.

The findings: Nearly three-quarters (74%) of American adults still view homeownership as a top hallmark of achieving the so-called American Dream, beating out the ability to retire (66%), a successful career (60%) and having children (40%). Only 35% of respondents named obtaining a college degree as a key sign of economic success.

Specifically among millennials, 65% identified homeownership as a top sign of success. That number fell to 59% for Gen Zers — still a large figure, and neck-and-neck with that generation's top choice of having a successful career (60%).

The survey polled 2,529 adults, including 1,397 homeowners, in early March. Among the non-homeowners, nearly two-thirds said affordability was the main reason they hadn't yet purchased a home. Gen Zers largely said their income wasn't high enough yet, while millennials primarily blamed rising home prices.

Either way, the sentiment is clear: More people would be buying homes if they could afford it.

"Non-homeowners cite insufficient income, high home prices, and not being able to afford a down payment or closing costs as the most common barriers to becoming a homeowner," Bankrate.com's chief financial analyst, Greg McBride, said in a statement. "High, and rising, home prices can contribute to the feelings of not having enough income or savings accumulated to buy a house."

The housing market has caught fire over the past two years: Rising demand has sent home prices soaring at a record rate, up roughly 34% since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The market has recently shown some signs of cooling, but home ownership remains an increasingly difficult goal for younger Americans to achieve — due especially to the outsized student debt loads and repressed wages that followed the Great Recession.

In the Bankrate survey, many younger Americans said they were willing to take some form of action to access a more affordable home: Three-quarters of Gen Zers and 69% of millennials said they'd consider relocating to a different state, moving to a more affordable but less desirable area, or taking a discount on a fixer-upper to achieve their dream.

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