5 Ways Millennial Homebuying Radically Differs from Other Generations

You’re not imagining things: Just about half the millennials you know are house hunting right now (despite the ebb and flow—though mostly flow—of mortgage rates). They make up roughly 41 percent of homebuyers, according to Zillow, and if you’ve talked to any of them, you’ve probably noticed the struggle to find something affordable is all too real. Like their parents, nearly half of millennials are eyeballing larger abodes in the suburbs, but that’s where the comparison ends. Times have changed, and so has the approach to buying a home today, particularly for those born between 1981 and 1996. Here’s how—and why.

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They Have More Mortgage Debt

As millennials bemoaned the sudden spike in mortgage rates—nearly doubling since the start of the year, though this August they’ve started to drop slightly—many of their parents were quick to say, “Hey, 5 or 6 percent is nothing compared to the rates I paid for my first house!” They’re right: Freddie Mac data reveals an average of 16.63 percent back in 1981. But housing prices overall have skyrocketed since those days (the median home sales price in 2022 is $440,300, compared to $69,400 during this quarter in 1981). Plus, given how many millennials are new homeowners (meaning they haven’t had as much time in a house to make payments on it), they’re the generation with the highest mortgage debt overall, with 11 percent more debt than the average homeowner.

millennial homebuying trends single women buying houses
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More Women Are Buying Homes

All the single ladies, all the single ladies, are buying homes whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh. OK, we’ll stop, but the gist is that millennial women make up 48 percent of independent homebuyers in the U.S. While most homeowners are couples, we’re starting to see things change, with two-thirds of women saying they’re not waiting to get married before closing on a house.

They’re Buying Sight Unseen

With homes going off the market almost as quickly as they’re listed, millennials haven’t had the luxury of debating whether to make an offer over the course of a week, or even a few days. A whopping 90 percent of millennials said they’d buy a house sight unseen, compared to 70 percent of baby boomers, according to a 1,000-person survey by Real Estate Witch. That doesn’t mean they’d be going on the listing alone; by “sight unseen,” they mean they might not step foot onto the property before buying, but they would want to see plenty of photos, take a virtual tour and, potentially, have a trusted friend view it in person. (While the study didn’t reveal whether they’re bypassing home inspections, a 2021 Angi survey revealed one in five people overall did, and of those, 20 percent said they regretted it.)

millennial homebuying trends making repairs
Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

They’re Buying Fixer Uppers

Given how competitive the market is, millennials have to be willing to live on the edge of eeek to buy a home. Hence the willingness to buy sight unseen—and just as much openness to taking on a house that needs major repairs (82 percent of those surveyed were into it, FYI). Maybe that’s why millennials have become so obsessed with HGTV in recent years.

They’re Maxing Out Their Budgets

Though some forecasts suggest housing prices will start to decline as the year progresses—a silver lining as we sit on the cusp of a recession?—many millennials have had to grapple with a simple fact: Homes on the market are pricier than they’d anticipated. As a result, the most common way they’re combatting this, according to the Real Estate Witch survey, is increasing their budgets. A full 46 percent expect to max theirs out completely, with a third planning on spending more than $405,000. It’s enough to make anyone reconsider renting.

candace davison bio

VP of editorial, recipe developer, kitsch-lover

Candace Davison oversees PureWow's food and home content, as well as its franchises, like the PureWow100 review series and the Happy Kid Awards. She’s covered all things lifestyle...