Low rates may spur millennial homebuying

Millennials, listen up: Now’s a good time to buy that home
Millennials, listen up: Now’s a good time to buy that home

Buying a home is one more thing millennials have been putting off — along with getting married and starting a family.

In fact, millennial home ownership dipped to a low of 36 percent in 2014, compared with about 65 percent for all ages, according U.S.Census Data.

However, that doesn't mean millennials aren't considering it, said Kevin Meehan, regional president of Wealth Enhancement Group in Illinois. "Some still have traditional desires to own homes," he said.

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And if you are a millennial debating whether to jump into the housing market, now may be a particularly good time.

For starters, mortgage rates are near their lowest levels ever, which helps, although home prices are still rising.

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At the same time, since the Great Recession, lenders have become a lot more strict about approving loans, especially to borrowers who don't have perfect credit.

Tighter lending requirements have left more young people unable to buy. That translates to more renters, which is outstripping the supply of rental apartments, giving landlords the ability to raise rents in many areas to new highs.

"Rents have gone up at an extraordinary pace since the financial crisis," Meehan said.

Landlords now have the incentive to "charge what the market will bear," said Evelyn Zohlen, president of Inspired Financial in Huntington Beach, California. As a result, "often a monthly mortgage payment is smaller than rent," she said.

In fact, buying a home is now 23 percent cheaper than renting nationwide, according to real-estate website Trulia. Keep in mind that's a national average and varies widely depending on where you live and applies to those with a 20 percent down payment.

Buying beats renting in many of the country's top cities including Miami, Houston and New Orleans, although in other places it's still cheaper to rent, Trulia's research showed.

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For those who plan to stay put for five years or more, buying could be a great option, financial advisors say. "If you have a buyer's mentality and it is where you think you will be geographically," then "the buying advantage definitely points to a very affordable time to purchase," Meehan said.

Young Couple House Hunting
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If you can find an affordable home. Inventory is low across the board, but it's worst for entry-level, single-family homes. The competition is incredibly stiff and that is steadily driving home prices higher. And as more potential buyers kick off their house hunt, that demand may push prices higher still.

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Before jumping in, advisors caution against buying more house than you can handle. When making a home purchase, add in all additional expenses, such as taxes, homeowner's insurance and plenty of upkeep, to see if you can afford the financial commitment.

And don't forget the down payment. The FHA offers low interest-rate mortgages with a 3.5 percent down payment but you will have to pay an upfront mortgage insurance premium as well as monthly premium costs.

With a 20 percent down payment, you can save on the insurance but your rate may be higher.

If all of that seems doable, then the current market could be a great opportunity. Even if prices don't appreciate very fast, paying down the mortgage builds equity quickly, Zohlen said.