AI-Generated using MidJourney. Prompted and edited by: Chris Janaro

Once their first child came along, Matt and Liz Russo began to think they should buy a house in the suburbs of Syracuse, N.Y. Their neighborhood had seen an uptick in crime, and they were hoping to land in a better school district. But it was the summer of 2022 when the housing market was as hot as it has been in decades.

It was really hard,” said Matt, “Typically, anything that we were interested in was collecting like ten offers. So, we gave up at first.”

Both 38 years old, Matt & Liz work as an environmental engineer and librarian, respectively. Their experience reflects a declining trend of the American dream: to start a family and buy a house as Millennials and older Zoomers, roughly people born between 1981 and 2000, increasingly no longer aspire to homeownership. Reasons include fewer marriages and family households being created, and when they do, much later in life than previous generations, paired with an inhospitable housing market and generational trauma from the 2008 mortgage crisis.

Not only are first-time homebuyers getting older, but one of the traditional motivators for home ownership, having children, has been declining. As many older millennials graduated college and attempted to enter the workforce around the time of the Great Recession, it has taken the generation longer to build wealth compared to their parents and older generations to start their own households and families.

As a few statistical examples of this change, back in 2018, the share of Millennials who said they would “always rent” and not own a home was 13.3%. That number has grown significantly in the short amount of time since then and now sits at nearly 25%, according to Apartment Lists 2022 Millennial Homeownership Report. Additionally, 44% of nonparents ages 18-49 say it’s unlikely they’ll have children of their own, up 7% from those who reported in 2018 as stated in a 2021 report by the Pew Research Center, and the average age of first-time homebuyers in the U.S. is now 36 years old, an all-time high according to The National Association of Realtors.

As many older millennials graduated college and attempted to enter the workforce during the great recession, delaying traditional life goals became the norm. Over a decade later, they were hit again by the global pandemic, further complicating plans.

“The millennials just can’t cut a break.” Says Dr. Lisa Sturtevant, Chief Economist for the Virginia REALTORS Trade Association. “Many folks saw their parents lose their homes or saw their friend’s parents lose homes from 2008 through 2010. So, I think there was a bit of hesitancy for a while, saying, well, why would I want to get involved? I just saw the rug be pulled out from underneath my family because of owning a home; why would I want to do that?”

In Baltimore, Maryland, 36-year-old Paul Shepard, a writer and content producer, co-habitats with his fiancé and partner of two years and is not inclined to buy a home now or in the foreseeable future despite recognizing homeownership’s traditional status of economic stability and measure of success.

“I think that’s not only kind of dated but also very specific to the U.S.,” says Paul. “It’s not like when you are in a place you own that you suddenly have so much more freedom because of it. So much more responsibility falls on the resident when you’re in a homeowner’s situation that I wonder whether it’s worth it.”

The implication for housing and the economy at large are ominous.  While the worst parts of the pandemic are now over, we have a looming recession on the horizon that the FED is attempting to soft land.  With that, younger zoomer generations graduating college may enter a precarious labor market as their predecessors did, continuing the late-life family and housing trend.  Others, like Paul, might opt for parental inheritance or, as is becoming more common, multi-generational households.

With the announcement In October that Micron Technologies is building a new microchip factory in Syracuse, Matt & Liz decided to house hunt again. The semiconductor factory is expected to bring 9000 jobs to the area, raising prosperity and home prices.

“I got nervous,” says Matt. “Is Syracuse going to be the next Silicon Valley? Are the houses that were going for $300,000 going to be going for $800,000 or more? I wasn’t sure, and we decided to start looking again. That second time, there wasn’t much variety, and there was not much inventory. It was slowing down.”

By early November, they had made an offer on a house in the suburb of Camillus near Syracuse and closed in December after looking at only two homes with little market competition this time around.

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