The Market

Is it actually possible for young people to own homes in NYC?

By Virginia K. Smith  | March 17, 2015 - 12:15PM

Recently, there's been a major sea change in the world of the Millenial Trend Piece: we're no longer an entitled, underemployed generation of Little Lord Fauntleroys, totally content to mooch off of our parents (and crash on their couches) from the cradle to the grave. (Who knew!) No, the 22-34-year-old demo is now seen as recession-scarred, fiscally conservative, and eager to clamber onto the proverbial property ladder just as our parents and grandparents did before us.

And it seems to actually be true: recent data from the National Association of Realtors referenced in a article shows that adults under the age of 34 accounted for 32 percent of U.S. home buyers in 2014, the largest percentage of any demographic. What's more, according to Time, Zillow recently conducted research indicating that young adults are a little more focused on home ownership than their parents were at their age. But is the same true in New York, where it can seem virtually impossible to make the jump from renting to owning without the help of a billionaire daddy, or piles of startup money?

Even outside of the five boroughs, millenials' tendency to migrate to urban areas with high cost of living (like New York and San Francisco) does help explain comparatively low rates of homeownership. "Young adults tend to live in markets where home ownership is less affordable to them," Trulia's chief economist has written. (This is also part of the reason why the rent is too damn high: people who would normally become first-time homeowners are priced out and forced to keep renting, pushing up rental prices for everyone else.)

But lately, things have been looking up. Employment rates and wages are steadily improving (about time...), and there are an increasing number of options for buyers who can't come up with the typical 20 percent down payment. For instance, New York state offers a 3-percent-down mortgage option to qualified buyers, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac recently rolled out a similar option. You can also see if you qualify for an HDFC or a Mitchell-Lama apartment—subsidized options that sell for far below the market rate—or start shopping around for landlease apartments, which can be risky (these buildings don't actually own their own land) but sell for as much as 30 percent less than comparable market-rate options.

If none of that pans out, research also shows that millenials flee cities for the suburbs once they start having kids, so it may pay off to take a gamble and invest in something cheaper in a neighborhood with no sidewalks (and no competition from foreign millionaires). If the data is right, all your friends will eventually end up out there, anyway.


Buy Curious: I'm coming up short on a down payment. Will I ever be a homeowner?

7 steps to getting a mortgage by your 30th birthday

Hit the NYC jackpot: how to get an affordable Mitchell-Lama apartment

Landlease apartments are cheaper, but are they worth it? A side-by-side comparison

How to buy a NYC apartment

The 3-percent-down mortgage you've never heard of that's available in NYC

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