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For millennials, this is the greatest hurdle to homeownership

CNBC logo CNBC 3/26/2019 Jessica Dickler
  • As far as Tatiana Skomski is concerned, the American dream is alive and well — although just beyond reach.

    Skomski, 24, lives with her boyfriend, K.J., and their dog, Lola, in Portland, Ore. They picture getting married, buying a house and starting a family.

    "It's a conversation we have probably every day," she said. "I recognize we are young, but it feels impossible that one day we will have a down payment for a home when we can just pay our bills every month."

    More than a quarter of millennials said buying a home was the life milestone they prioritize the most, even over getting married, having children and retiring, according to the latest Country Financial Security Index.

    Still, the homeownership rate for the largest generation in U.S. history is lower than that of their parents and grandparents at the same age, according to a separate report by the Urban Institute, a policy research group.

    Sky-high rents, unprecedented student loan debt and delayed marriage reduce the likelihood of being able to buy a home, the institute found.

    Skomski and her boyfriend work full time; however, they also have student loans — each owe around $30,000, roughly on par with the national average per graduate.

    About half of 18-to-34-year-olds said affording a down payment was the single greatest financial barrier to homeownership, according to the Urban Institute and Country Financial. (Despite most Americans' belief that you must put 20 percent or more down, 71 percent of current homeowners made down payments of 20 percent or less, according to Census data.)

    "Purchasing a home is much more than paying for a place to live; it's a major investment of both time and money," said Doyle Williams, Country Financial executive vice president. "Once you've done that, there's a benefit to being a homeowner: You are building equity with every mortgage payment."

    If given $25,000 tomorrow, more millennials — about 26 percent — said they would rather put this newfound money toward a down payment for a new home than use it to pay off their credit card debts (17 percent) or student loans (16 percent), Country Financial said.

    By contrast, Americans ages 35 to 49 would rather pay off their credit card debt (33 percent) or invest the funds (20 percent).

    Country Financial surveyed over 1,000 adults in February for its Financial Security Index.

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