Most can’t afford homes, and those who can are deeper in mortgage debt than other generations.

4 minute read

Millennial homebuyers are in a tough spot. Low supply in the housing market makes starter homes a rare find.[1] And most of the generation has the daunting task of saving money while saddled with heaps of student loan debt.

In fact, the latest data from the Federal Reserve shows that from 2005 to 2014 the average student loan debt per person ages 24-32 doubled, while their homeownership rates dropped almost 10 percent.[#2]

That’s not saying all millennials are stuck renting. Many have taken out mortgages on homes, and recent research from credit bureau Experian shows those members of the generation are on pace to hold more mortgage debt than their older counterparts.[3]

Here’s the data broken down by generation…

  • Generation Z: $138,193
  • Millennials: $222,211
  • Generation X: $237,753
  • Baby boomers: $175, 743
  • Silent generation: $131,658

What’s interesting about Experian’s study is the rate at which millennials’ mortgage debt has increased compared to older generations. It’s gone up 5 percent since last year, while Generation X has only seen their home loans increase by 2 percent.

Clearly, there are obstacles holding millennials back from affordable housing. scoured through expert research on the web. Here are the biggest takeaways we found…

4 reasons why millennials can’t afford homes

It’s not because they’re not savvy with their money, the housing market doesn’t cater well to first-time homebuyers with record-high levels of student debt. Rising home prices, low supply of housing, and putting off marriage are all reasons millennials are struggling to buy homes.

1. Millennials and student loans

Out of all the obstacles that delay college graduates from buying a home, student loans seem to be the most crippling. More than 80 percent of millennials who don’t own homes said they couldn’t afford one because of student loans, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).[4]

In other words, recent college graduates are too busy paying for school to pay for a place to live. And the more student debt you’re in, the lower your chances are of becoming a homeowner. The more debt you’re in, the harder time you’ll have to buy a home, according to social and economic think tank the Urban Institute.[5]

Many older millennials that attended college during the Great Recession had no choice but to take out massive student loans. They attended college because jobs were scarce – and had to borrow because their parents were too broke to help them.

Since they couldn’t afford college then, millennials can’t afford homes now. The Fed’s statistics show that older millennials who lived through the recession, those ages 30-39, now hold $461 billion in student loan debt as of 2017 – with the rate increasing 30.2 percent over the last five years.[6]

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2. Millennials and low housing inventory

Low housing inventory and rising prices make the housing market hard to navigate for first-time homeowners. Last year, inventory was down 20 percent from the previous year, according to real estate company Redfin.[1]

“For millennials, the dream of homeownership is alive and well,” says economist Cheryl Young of Trulia, a real estate listing site, “but with prices going up and inventory continuing to shrink, this new generation of buyers are facing more obstacles than any other demographic.”

A study from Trulia last year said that December 2018 marked the ninth consecutive quarter of declining inventory.[7]

The five-year-long trend snapped last month as a few hot markets’ inventories increased, according to a recent Zillow study.[8] But those markets were urban areas like Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco – markets that millennials with debt can’t afford anyway, even if they are available.

3. Millennials deal with rising home prices

Starter homes were hard to come by last year. Just 22 percent of homes were considered entry-level, according to the same Zillow inventory study.

The demand to purchase due to low inventory is making it competitive for millennial homebuyers to purchase faster than before. The demand is so high that 45 percent of millennials are trying to beat their competition by purchasing homes online without even seeing them in person.[1]

But as inventory decreases, home prices don’t. The Zillow study found that median rents and values rose by 2.7 percent and 8 percent, respectively, in just a year. So even when millennials do find a house on the market, it’s probably far out of reach for their budget.


4. Millennials delay marriage

Millennials are waiting longer in life to get married than previous generations. And that also makes it harder to afford a home.

After accounting for age, income, education, and ethnicity – marriage will heighten your chances of becoming a homeowner by 18 percent, says a study from the Urban Institute.[9]

If the marriage rate in 2015 had been the same as it was 20 years ago, the millennial homeownership rate would be around 5 percent higher, the study found.

Despite all the reasons roadblocks millennials face when buying a home, student loans seem to be the biggest burden. Check out’s step-by-step guide on how to get rid of student debt.

Kristen Grau contributed to this report.


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About the Author

Gregory Cox

Gregory Cox

Gregory Cox is a multimedia freelance journalist working out of Seattle. He worked as a breaking news intern for the Palm Beach Post and later as an intern for the Palm Beach Daily News. He formerly worked as managing editor of the FAU student newspaper, where he covered the school's Student Government.

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