Couple standing in kitchen in new house

Homeownership may be easier to accomplish for first-time buyers this year. (Getty Images)

Only 32 percent of millennials owned a home in 2015, according to a 2018 Millennial Homeownership Report from the Urban Institute. However, that might change in 2019.

While interest rates are rising, housing prices are expected to stabilize, offering additional affordable options to first-time homebuyers. Plus, mortgage lenders are experimenting with new ways to check creditworthiness and streamline the application process.

When it comes to whether the climate is favorable to millennials entering the housing market, Leo Loomie, senior vice president of client development for mortgage solutions provider Digital Risk, suggests "there are more tailwinds than headwinds going into 2019."

However, millennials still like the flexibility of renting, so the reality of a wave of millennial homebuyers in the coming year is no sure thing. While millennials may be able to get mortgages in the coming year, the appeal of being able to move at will may win out over the prospect of homeownership.

[See: 7 Things First-Time Homebuyers Wish They'd Known.]

Why millennials wait to buy homes. The entrance of millennials into the housing market has been delayed by a number of factors, including student loans, limited savings and mobile lifestyles.

"They often are paying off other loans, making it tougher to save the cash required for a down payment," says Steven Gottlieb of Warburg Realty in New York City. However, he adds that money isn't what seems to hold back many of the young adults he encounters in New York. Instead, they are hesitant to commit to a long-term living arrangement. "Millennials change jobs more often than previous generations, and thus are less likely to want to be tied down to a neighborhood or even a particular city."

What's more, delayed homeownership may be a natural consequence of millennials holding off on other rites of passage. "Homebuying is often linked to life events like getting married or having a baby, both of which are happening later in life, and many people are choosing not to take these steps at all," says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at online loan marketplace LendingTree.

In fact, the percentage of married millennials tracks closely to the number of young adults buying homes. The Urban Institute found 37 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds were homeowners in 2015, and the Pew Research Center found an identical percentage of millennials were married in 2017.



Making millennial homeownership possible. Kathy Cummings, senior vice president of homeownership solutions and affordable housing programs at Bank of America, says millennials have misconceptions about homebuying that can keep them out of the market. For instance, nearly half of 2,000 adults surveyed by Bank of America in 2018 believed a 20 percent down payment is necessary to buy a house. Instead, many properties can be purchased with only 3 percent down, Cummings says.

Credit scores are another factor that can discourage millennials from buying a home. Of the 685 millennials responding to the 2018 TD Bank Buy or Rent Survey, 17 percent said they didn't think they would be approved because of their credit.

[Read: When Location Isn't Everything in Real Estate.]

The average credit score for millennial homebuyers in the nation's 50 largest metro areas is 656, according to a 2018 analysis by LendingTree. Cummings says most institutions use 680 as the cutoff for what they consider good credit, although applicants with credit scores as low as 580 may be eligible for mortgages.

However, the launch of the UltraFICO Score later this year could be a game-changer for millennials with low scores because of a limited credit history, Loomie says. The credit scoring model will allow mortgage applicants who don't initially qualify for a loan to opt into having bank account data used to further gauge their creditworthiness. UltraFICO offers a revised score based on factors such as average account balance and automatic deposits from payroll or other sources. According to FICO, 70 percent of those with at least $400 in the bank and no negative balances in the past three months should see their score improve.

"It's a very interesting way to assess someone's financial responsibility," Loomie says. Since the program is only in the pilot phase, it remains to be seen how much of an impact it will have on millennial homebuyers. However, Loomie says UltraFICO could potentially bump up credit scores by 20 points.


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Young buyers need affordable housing. Even if millennials are able to qualify for a mortgage, they may have trouble finding a property within their budget. "The key challenge recently is affordability," Kapfidze says. "Six years of rapid home price increases and higher interest rates over the past two years are making it more challenging for all types of homebuyers."

As a result, access to housing may vary significantly throughout the country. "We've seen a lot of millennial homeownership in markets like Detroit, Minneapolis and Charlotte (North Carolina)," Cummings says. However, young homebuyers are priced out of many properties in urban areas such as San Francisco and New York City.

While interest rates are climbing, that may not be a significant obstacle when taken in context of historical rates. "In the '80s, mortgage rates were 18 to 20 percent," Loomie explains.

Millennials still want flexibility. Ultimately, the question of whether millennials will embrace homeownership in 2019 may boil down to whether young Americans are ready to settle down and pour their money into a single asset.

"Many millennials I work with in New York City would rather rent, thus keeping more capital freed up for other investments," Gottlieb says. Plus, they aren't convinced they will want to live in one place for five years, let alone 30 years. "The world is smaller for them, and moving to another city for a new job is not as daunting as (it was) for previous generations," Gottlieb explains.

[See: 8 Potential Headaches to Be Aware of Before Becoming a Homeowner.]

With low down payment options, more affordable housing and alternative credit scores, homeownership will likely be within the grasp of many millennials in 2019. But don't count on them relinquishing their freedom to grab hold of it.


The Best Apps for House Hunting

Browse for homes – and maybe even close a deal.

Woman on smartphone

(Getty Images)

Luckily for homebuyers, house hunting apps are growing in number and sophistication. As the online real estate marketing industry becomes more competitive, mobile apps are getting better at helping consumers find accurate housing information while offering features to help users narrow down their search. Read on for some of the most popular and helpful apps to use when searching for your next house. All apps are available on both iOS and Android.

Updated on Nov. 6, 2019: This slideshow was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

Zillow

Zillow

(Courtesy of Zillow)

This is the most downloaded real estate app for both Apple and Android phones, and it includes Zillow's signature map and home value estimate tools. With more than 100 million homes in its database, Zillow's app is the most popular method for users to explore the platform. In fact, Zillow reports that more than two-thirds of its usage takes place on a mobile device, jumping to more than three-quarters on the weekends.

Best feature: The app’s dashboard includes a Your Home tab that allows you to store your property’s information and see how its value estimate changes over time.

Pro: You have the option to filter your saved searches by property listings that have recently changed, so you don’t have to scroll far to see if a house's asking price dropped.

Con: As much as you may want it to be, the Zillow Zestimate isn’t a guarantee of what your home will sell for.

Realtor.com Real Estate Search

Realtor.com Real Estate Search

(Courtesy of Realtor.com)

Filters on this app's search function allow you to include specific details on your must-have list, such as multiple floors, a fireplace, central air and even community swimming pools or security features.

Best feature: With the Sign Snap feature, you can take a photo of a real estate sign you see in a neighborhood and get details about the property right away.

Pro: You have the option to connect with a real estate agent who can represent you as the buyer in a deal, but you can also see the contact information of the listing agent if you want to talk to him or her directly.

Con: The more specific filters rely on listing agents using the right keywords, so if you’re struggling to find everything you want in a house, you may have to widen your search and keep an eye out for details in listing photos.

Trulia

Trulia

Fascia and Ridge of Gable Roof

(Getty Images)

Trulia’s app gives users a desktop-like experience in a mobile platform, with a focus on design that makes it easy to use.

Best feature: Trulia polls its online users who live in specific neighborhoods and includes the results on the app. For example, you might find that 93% of one neighborhood's respondents feel comfortable walking alone at night or that 76% say kids play outside regularly.

Pros: On each property profile, Trulia lists local legal protections, noting whether there is legislation in the area to protect against discrimination for gender identity or sexual orientation in employment, housing or public accommodations.

Cons: On any property profile, you’re prompted to call or email an agent about the property. While this is convenient if you’re serious about buying but don’t have an agent, it can get in the way if you’re just browsing.

Redfin Real Estate

Redfin Real Estate

Stock image of someone holding a smart phone.

(Getty Images)

Since Redfin utilizes an out-of-the-box business model with agents and professionals specializing in different steps of the homebuying and selling process, the company’s app serves as a way for users and Redfin agents to communicate. A map indicates which properties are listed by Redfin or another broker and also notes homes that are likely to sell fast through its Hot Homes feature.

Best feature: You can schedule a tour with a Redfin agent directly through the app. The app even lists the next available tour time.

Pro: You can click the heart symbol to keep a property you like on your radar, and you can also nix properties so they don’t keep popping up in searches.

Con: If you don’t live in one of the 80 markets where Redfin has agents, the app offers local listing information pulled from the MLS, but you won't be able to utilize the features that connect you with Redfin agents.

Homesnap Real Estate & Rentals

Homesnap Real Estate & Rentals

(Courtesy of Homesnap)

Homesnap gives house hunters the reins with this app. A signature feature allows users to take a photo of a home, and the app will identify the property and provide details about it from the local multiple listing service or public records.

Best feature: The beginning of each property profile details the property history, including previous sale prices and when it last went on market.

Pro: Each home has a section that allows you to determine your commute route and time and see both map and street views of the property.

Con: The property details are in list form, which you can expand to see everything from the home's architectural style to number of bathrooms and homeowners association fees. The depth of information is helpful, but long lists can make it easy to lose focus and miss key criteria.

Homes.com

Homes.com

Woman on her phone

(Getty Images)

On this app, you can search based on your needs and desires, including buying versus renting, home value information for properties on the market and what neighborhoods are ideal based on your preferred commute time.

Best feature: An exclamation point in the corner of a property profile lets you know that it’s a new listing, which can help you move quickly to avoid competition with other buyers.

Pro: If you'd like to get in touch with a local agent, the bottom of a property's profile often lists more than one option, making it easier for you to shop around for the right agent.

Con: While Homes.com has much of the same property information as other house hunting platforms, the app doesn't offer much in the way of neighborhood information.

Estately Real Estate

Estately Real Estate

Mature businesswoman at cafe

(Getty Images)

Estately aims to connect consumers with the right local real estate agent, and its app offers multiple ways to get in touch with agents.

Best feature: Users can click on icons on property profiles for quick information on taxes, utilities, appliances, schools and more. Profiles also include scores on things like area noise pollution and internet speed – details that aren’t always considered but could be deal-breakers.

Pro: The app encourages you to see houses in person, with multiple opportunities on a property profile to schedule a day and time to visit.

Con: Estately only covers markets in 40 states, so those looking for homes in Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky and several others are out of luck.

Century 21 Local

Century 21 Local

(Courtesy of Century 21)

A longstanding national brokerage, Century 21 provides consumers with access to home listing information pulled from the local multiple listing services. The app can particularly come in handy if you plan to use a Century 21 agent, as that’s who you'll be in touch with if you would like to inquire more about a property.

Best feature: The app provides a notes section for every property, so you can keep track of your impressions as you compare homes.

Pro: If you start searching for homes in a different city, information about the local Century 21 brokerage you should contact changes accordingly, although you can still see listings from brokerages outside Century 21.

Con: This app pulls from Zillow to provide home value estimates, but occasionally lists "unavailable" even if the property has a Zestimate available on Zillow.

The best apps for house hunting include:

The best apps for house hunting include:

A row of detached homes in an idyllic community in Fredericksburg, Virginia

(Getty Images)

  • Zillow.
  • Realtor.com Real Estate Search.
  • Trulia.
  • Redfin Real Estate.
  • Homesnap Real Estate & Rentals.
  • Homes.com.
  • Estately Real Estate.
  • Century 21 Local.

Read More

Tags: real estate, housing market, home prices, new home sales, housing, mortgages


Maryalene LaPonsie has been writing for U.S. News & World Report since 2015 and covers topics including retirement, personal finance and Social Security. Ms. LaPonsie is also a regular contributor to Money Talks News and co-founder of Lowell’s First Look, a micro-news site for her local community.

With more than a decade of reporting experience, Ms. LaPonsie’s work has been featured on MSN, CBS MoneyWatch, Yahoo Finance, NerdWallet and numerous other sites on the web. She has been a guest of Consumer Talk with Michael Finney and The Steve Pomeranz Show.

A native of Michigan, Ms. LaPonsie received her bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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