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Millennials in Texas and in California Reject Homeownership for Vastly Different Reasons

Millennials in Texas and in California Reject Homeownership for Vastly Different Reasons

Beth Behrs and Kat Dennings in "2 Broke Girls."


The fact that “Generation Rent”—25- to 34-year-olds in the U.S.—isn’t getting off the fence when it comes to buying homes has been well documented. Even with near record-low interest rates, just 38% of this cohort—also known as millennials—owned homes in 2012, according to CoreLogic, compared with nearly 52% of the same age group in 1980, when mortgage rates were in the double digits.

So, what’s one more survey, right? Except this one is a little different.

Carrington Mortgage Services, a Santa Ana, Calif.-based mortgage lender and servicer, surveyed millennials about home ownership and then did something unique: it sorted the responses by category, and then broke them out by region in the United States.

What they discovered should make real estate agents and loan officers pay attention, because what’s keeping millennials from buying a home in one part of the country isn’t true in another.

In the 12 western-most states (ranging from Montana down to New Mexico and Washington down through California and New Mexico—and also including Alaska) millennials are more concerned with down-payment costs, as the price of a down payment in these states tends to exceed the 2014 national average (as determined by RealtyTrac) of approximately $ 32,000, or 14% of the total purchase price.

Read: 10 housing markets where down payments are affordable

“Sensitivity in the West (to down-payment costs) is intuitive,” says Ray Brousseau, executive vice president of mortgage lending in Carrington’s South Hadley, Mass., office in an interview. “Property values are much higher, taxes are much higher, the cost of living is much higher,” he said.

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Despite the high cost of higher education and the high cost of living while in school in many of these Western states, student loan debt ranks below other factors, including FICO scores, and simply not knowing where to start. “Folks in (states like) California are just used to this,” Brousseau said.

Student loan debt is the biggest concern of many millennial borrowers in the upper Midwest states, along with Ohio and Indiana, however. Their second-biggest fear is credit card debt, according to Carrington.

millennial renters map

High student loan debt or credit card debt is the biggest concern among Midwestern millennials because even though their cost of living is lower, their salaries tend to be lower as well, making a student loan debt burden plus a house payment look even more daunting, especially on the all important debt-to-income (DTI) ratio.

“Student loan debt is universal,” he said. “What does vary is how significant that becomes to the overall equation.”

And what’s the biggest concern among millennials considering buying a house in the northeast? Credit card debt, according to Carrington, even though it only worried 14% of millennials surveyed nationwide.

For millennials in the south, the problem with home ownership appears to be two-fold. Not knowing how to start on the house-buying process is paramount, and worries about low credit scores, according to the survey.

“The greater debt they have, the lower the FICO score they think they have, but it’s not true,” Brousseau said. “There’s good debt and there’s bad debt,” he said, talking about the difference between student loan debt, where interest payments can be written off, versus revolving credit card debt. “One is tax deductible, the other is compounded daily,” he said.

The difficulty in getting millennials to take the plunge in the entry-level market will also have consequences down the road, says Tom Hutchens senior vice president of sales and marketing of AngelOak Mortgage Solutions in Atlanta. “There won’t be as many move-up buyers,” he said.

Still, the survey showed some improvement in what many have categorized as a generation that will lag behind its predecessors in home ownership: more than half of millennials say they plan to buy a home in the next two years, and that the reduction in mortgage insurance premiums may be the final nudge they need to get off the fence.

Nevertheless, even some millennials who don’t have large student and credit card debt don’t want to take the plunge.

Ashley Orsini, a 26-year-old in Arlington, Va., who herself works in the mortgage industry, has no plans to buy a home, at least in the immediate future, even though she has no credit card debt and student loan debt. “I haven’t even thought about it, never have I even wanted to,” she said in a Marketwatch.com interview.

She says since she and many of her friends don’t know where they plan to be in five years, a home just ties them down, plus adds to other expenses they already labor under. “They don’t want it to go along with the credit card debt, or the car payments they already have,” she said.

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