More Gen Zers Are Buying Homes Than Ever Before

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On January 7th, 2021, U.S. 30-year mortgage rates fell to their lowest level in history: 2.65%. They reflected historically low returns on 10-Year Treasuries (often called the “risk-free” return), which had plummeted to zero as the U.S. reeled from the economic concussion of pandemic layoffs, closures, eviction moratoriums, and foreclosure bans.

As mortgage rates reached historic, never-before-seen lows, millions of first-time homebuyers decided it was time to make their move. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2021 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report, Millennials became the dominant home-buying generation in 2020, purchasing 38% of all homes sold during one of the largest residential and commercial migrations in recent history. 

By comparison, Boomers came in second place, representing 32% of all homebuyers, while Gen Xers only claimed 24% of the pie. Meanwhile, the Silent Generation made up 5% of homebuyers. But Generation Z experienced the largest year-over-year (YoY) growth of any home-buying demographic. Generation Z have doubled their percent ownership in the market from 2019 to 2020).

Although Zoomers are the smallest homebuyer demographic, they’re growing the fastest

What do we know about this young but very influential and media-savvy generation of homebuyers? How are they different from their Millennial big siblings, Gen Xer parents, and Boomer grandparents? Let’s see what the numbers tell us.

Who is Generation Z?

The Pew Research Center and most media outlets identify Zoomers as the generation born between 1997–2012. Entering 2021, the oldest Zoomers were 23–24 years old and were the first generation of “digital natives” born with access to smartphones, the Internet, social media, and everything that comes with modern technology.

Zoomers are very different from the generations preceding them. They’re the most ethnically diverse generation on record: only 52% are non-Hispanic white, 25% Hispanic, 14% black, 6% Asian, and 5% two or more races.

Generation Z is less white than previous generations

They’re also the best-educated generation so far, less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to be enrolled in college than previous generations. They expect more from the government, are more open-minded when it comes to marriage, and do more research into the brands they buy.

In other words, they’re smart and discerning customers, which is probably why the number of Zoomers buying homes in 2020 more than doubled from 2019 despite the pandemic. They saw a good opportunity, and pounced on it, just like Millennials did.

What Zoomers think about home ownership

According to Homes.com, Gen Zers are dedicated to early homeownership. We recently interviewed Gen Zer Julie Roffo in our Women & Wealth campaign, who can attest to this phenomenon. After seeing the commitment her parents made towards home ownership, “Julie took pride in following in her parent’s footsteps and now hopes to own a home in the near future".

She’s not alone. In fact, 85.8% of Zoomers surveyed plan to buy their first home before turning 35. In fact, 48.1% of Zoomers expect to be homeowners even earlier, between the ages of 25–29. This is in sharp contrast to Millennials, who were held back by flat wages, rising tuition costs, and the Great Recession. Only 35.4% of Millennials have managed to become homeowners before the age of 35. 

Unsurprisingly, more than half of all Zoomers are concerned about how they can make and save up enough to afford their dream home. “Making enough money to afford to buy a home” was the biggest barrier to homeownership for 42.3% of Zoomers, while 20.9% were worried about “saving for a down payment.”

As for why they want to buy their first home so young? Zoomers aren’t just in it for the money—they “want to have a place to call my own.” Up to 40.8% of Zoomers want “a good home for their pets,” while 32.5% would “feel safer if I owned my own home.” That being said, nearly half of Gen Zers (49.5%) think that owning a home is also a good investment.

Finally, 51.6% of Zoomers believe that they still have to save for 2 years or more before they can afford their down payment, while 18.3% believe they will only have to save for 1–2 years before shopping around for homes.

How many Zoomers are buying homes?

According to data from Statista, 2020 homeownership rates in the U.S. are what you’d expect. Only 38.5% of Americans below 35 are homeowners, compared to 61–80.2% homeownership rates for Americans over 35 years of age. While there isn’t conclusive data for Zoomers yet, we can deduce the numbers.

According to Statista, 5.64 million existing homes were sold in 2020, and a projected 6.49 million existing homes will be sold in 2021. Since Zoomers accounted for 2% of all home sales last year, that means they bought around 112,800 homes. Even if the Zoomer home-buying rate stays flat at 2% this year, they’re on track to buy 129,800 existing homes.

The numbers for new construction purchases aren’t as clear cut for Zoomers, as new constructions currently cost much more than existing homes, given the supply shortage and 180% markup in lumber prices.

When will they become the dominant home-buying generation?

While no one can predict the future, it’s very likely that Gen Z homebuyers will be a force to be reckoned with by the end of this decade. In 2031, the oldest Zoomers will be 33–34 years of age. And if the economy continues to recover, they’re likely to make good on their home ownership dreams before turning 35.

"The oldest of them are finishing college and starting jobs, especially if they were the ambitious types who took a lot of AP classes in high school," said George Ratiu, a senior economist at realtor.com. "For this generation, homeownership seems to be a part of their growing up. Contrary to expectations, this generation is just as much interested in owning the home they live in as prior generations."

Bank of America predicts that Generation Z will be the “most disruptive generation ever” and will make more than Millennials by 2031 as well. Real estate companies that want to stay ahead of the curve will have to do their homework on Zoomers if they want to compete in the new, post-pandemic residential real estate market.

This is just part of the story. A new era of home lending is upon us—and our proprietary data tells the story. Read our white paper here. 

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