Millennials contributed $514 billion to the housing market over the past year and became the largest group of U.S. homebuyers, real estate site Zillow reports. Still, they lag behind where previous generations were at their age.
And it's not because they're lazy or unmotivated or self-indulgent. New data from Zillow show that young people's dreams of owning homes are blocked by two main factors: Affordability issues and other generations.
Zillow surveyed more than 13,000 U.S. residents aged 18 to 75 about how they search, pay for and maintain their homes, as well as their overall frustrations with the housing market. Here's what it found.
Houses and even apartments are too expensive for most young people, whose wages, until recently, weren't going up even as costs were. Now "there are no more low-priced homes," reports CNBC's Diana Olick.
"Homeownership is simply out of reach for many Americans, including many families. In today's hot housing market, more Americans are renting than at any time in recent history," according to Zillow. "Today's buyers have a median age of 40, are married or living with a partner (70 percent), earn a median income of $87,500 annually and are overwhelmingly Caucasian/white (73 percent)."
Zillow's data show that only 39 percent of millennials are able to make the standard, recommended down payment of 20 percent or more, and 21 percent put down the bare minimum in order to secure a home loan.
"In many cities the housing market is extremely competitive, especially for first-time buyers who are looking to purchase a starter home," Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow, says in the report.
62 percent of millennials say they shop for a rental while looking to buy a home, according to the survey, which indicates "they accept the fact that buying a home is not a sure thing."
About half of those who do buy get an assist. 29 percent of young people report getting financial help from family or friends to make a down payment, and 31 percent collect funds from multiple sources.
Millennials are also likely to say they struggled to find a home in their price range and on their time frame, according to the report, and 37 percent say they went over budget, compared to 29 percent of all buyers.
Another obstacle for millennial homebuyers: their fellow Americans, both older and younger.
Generation Z is ready to enter the housing market, as they are "just as likely as those in older generations to say owning a home is key to the American Dream," reports Zillow. 57 percent say they considered buying a home when they looked for their last rental.
More importantly, Baby Boomers are making it difficult for millennials to buy. Since more of them are staying put rather than down- or up-sizing, they're not freeing up much-needed inventory.
According to a study from real-estate site Realtor, 85 percent of boomers say they aren't planning to sell their home in the next year.
"Homeownership among boomers, at 78 percent, is nearly twice as high as millennials, at 41 percent," the study says. "As a growing population of boomers decide to stay, put so are approximately 33 million properties, many of which are urban condos or suburban single-family homes — the most popular choices for millennials."
While there are frustrations for millennial homebuyers, there is also a light at the end of the tunnel, says Anthony Ghosn, chief executive officer of Hearth, which helps Americans finance renovations.
He tells CNBC Make It that, when millennials take the time to learn about finances, those who want to own homes "can put themselves on a path to [achieving it]."
And millennials are still generally optimistic. They are 49 percent more likely than Boomers to think the American dream, of which buying a home is a substantial part, is within reach, according to a Hearth survey.
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