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Many millennials say buying a home may finally be within reach

Samantha Suckno and Jason Ortiz bought their first home in Rockaway, NJ.
Source: Samantha Suckno

Samantha Suckno says knew she wanted to start to build a life with her soon-to-be husband in a home they owned.

So she and her fiance, Jason Ortiz, came up with a plan: move into a rental property together, pay down their bills and start saving. The couple also cut back on traveling.

"The money I was using to pay for my own rent was basically going into paying off credit card debt," the 31-year-old said, noting that when she was on her own she "had been living paycheck to paycheck."

Suckno and Ortiz, 37, were married in February 2018. In July, they bought their first home together in Rockaway, New Jersey.

Their decision to make the leap into homeownership may be part of a growing trend.

A new study by Chase Home Lending found 52% of millennial first-time homebuyers feel financially ready to buy a home. And 70% said they are willing to cut back on extra-curricular activities, like shopping, movie-going and a spa visit, once a month to make it happen. The bank surveyed 1,000 first-time U.S. homebuyers, ages 22 to 38, in March.

Millennials currently make up the largest share of homebuyers, according to the National Association of Realtors. However, the generation's homeownership rate is lower than that of their parents and grandparents at the same age, a report by the policy research group Urban Institute found.

To be sure, they are facing increasing hurdles in today's real estate market. Prices are rising and the number of the homes on the market are shrinking. According to Zillow, starter home prices have increased by 57.3% over the last five years, while inventory has dropped by 23.3%.

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They also have things like student loan debt and delayed marriage to thank for the late start. Additionally, older millennials graduated during the last recession and witnessed the housing crisis.

"They went through a process where renting seemed like a better idea and a safer outcome," said Sean Grzebin, head of consumer originations at Chase Home Lending.

Then there is the desire they have for a more balanced life that includes spending money on traveling and going out to dinner, he added.

However, now "they are starting to realize the importance of homeownership and the necessity to have some balance in terms of sacrificing those things," Grzebin said.

In fact, Suckno said she was among the last of her friends, fellow millennials, to buy a home.

But just because they are entering the housing market doesn't mean millennials are free from buyer's remorse.

A survey of 10,000 homeowners and renters from Zillow found that 81% of young homeowners between the age of 18 and 34 years old had at least one regret about their home, compared with 65% of those 55 years and older. Most of those younger buyers' regrets had to do with their mortgage payments and type of mortgage they have.

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Sarah Mikhitarian, senior economist at Zillow, said that may have to do with their inexperience with the homebuying process.

However, at the end of the day, they generally were still happy with their purchase.

"As millennials make the home their own with their furniture or renovations, it's a space for them to come home to at the end of the day and provide the peace or enjoyment that they were looking for all along," Mikhitarian said.

As for Suckno, she has no regrets, although there have been some unexpected expenses along the way — like a basement renovation that went way over budget.

"I wish we could have done it sooner — 100%— just because it is our own," she said.

"You take pride in everything you've done to your own home that you are building equity in."

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.