Gen Z Can’t Afford to Buy Homes and They’re Blaming Millennials

By: Georgia | Published: Mar 13, 2024

As Generation Z enters the housing market, they are confronted with significant barriers, including elevated interest rates and soaring property prices.

This generation, on the cusp of adulthood, finds the dream of owning a home increasingly out of reach, a stark contrast to previous generations who found this milestone more attainable.

Millennials at the Forefront of Housing Demand

Despite facing significant challenges in housing affordability, Millennials represent the largest generation in U.S. history and are poised to drive the nation’s housing demand.

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A smiling young couple is holding up a set of keys, symbolizing new homeownership, with focused attention on the keys. In the softly blurred background, a real estate agent in a suit stands with arms crossed

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Ned Davis Research’s chief economist Alejandra Grindal and research analyst London Stockton emphasize that Millennials, often portrayed as financially constrained, are central to the country’s household formation. This enduring demand demonstrates their pivotal role in the housing market, shaping trends and expectations for the future despite their own struggles with affordability.

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Millennials' Impact on the Housing Market

Millennials, who previously voiced their struggles with homeownership, have now secured their place in the housing market, benefiting from historically low mortgage rates.

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This shift has inadvertently tightened the market for Gen Z, with fewer properties available and prices driven higher, as noted by housing market observers.

Gen Z's Daunting Path to Homeownership

The journey toward homeownership is particularly challenging for Gen Z, who are on the cusp of entering the real estate market.

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According to Allison Schrager, as they begin their search for starter homes, they will confront a landscape marked by both steep prices and high interest rates. The prospect of affordability in the housing market appears distant, with expectations set for a prolonged period before any significant easing of costs.

“House Hacking” as a Strategy for Gen Z

Facing these challenges, some Gen Z individuals are resorting to “house hacking,” a strategy where homeowners rent out parts of their property to offset costs.

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A family is in the midst of setting up their home. A man is assisting a woman in hanging a picture frame that reads 'EAT' on the wall. A young child in a red shirt looks on, standing next to a sofa with a toy train set on the coffee table

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This approach underscores their innovative methods to navigate the financial hurdles of the current real estate market.

The Phenomenon of “Doom Spending” Among Younger Generations

With homeownership feeling unattainable, many Gen Z and younger millennials engage in “doom spending,” using their income to purchase luxuries and experiences instead of saving for a home.

A person is holding several shopping bags in their hand. The prominent bag has 'Henry - the art of living' written on it

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This spending behavior reflects their adaptation to an economic environment where traditional milestones seem increasingly out of reach.

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Insights From Maria Melchor on Financial Choices

Maria Melchor, a financial content creator, shared insights on TikTok about young people’s financial behaviors, highlighting their shift in priorities due to the unaffordability of homes.

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She said, “When older people ask me how young people are affording nice things that they wouldn’t even buy for themselves, I tell them it’s because we can’t afford anything else.”

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Navigating Financial Priorities Amidst Market Turbulence

For many individuals, the decision to indulge in immediate pleasures rather than saving for a seemingly unattainable home has become a more appealing choice. The sentiment that splurging offers a respite from the harsh reality of potentially renting indefinitely into retirement is prevalent.

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This is exemplified by one user’s comment: “My mother asking me when I’m gonna stop traveling and buy a house. I can’t afford a house but I can travel.” This perspective is shared by many who find that despite their efforts to save, the rapid acceleration of housing costs far outstrips their saving pace.

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Young Adults Grapple With Economic Hardships

A recent poll by CNBC and Generation Lab, “Youth & Money in the USA,” reveals a stark feeling among adults aged 18 to 34: a majority feel that achieving life milestones is considerably more challenging for them than it was for their parents.

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Specifically, 55% of the 1,039 respondents believe that purchasing a home today is “much harder” compared to past generations.

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Across Generations, “Doom Spending” Reflects Wider Economic Concerns

However, Doom Spending is not exclusive to Gen Z; it’s a trend observed across various age groups, reflecting widespread anxiety about the economy and personal financial stability.

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This behavior points to a broader pattern of coping mechanisms people employ in response to economic uncertainty.

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Credit Karma's Findings on Doom Spending

Research by Credit Karma has shed light on doom spending as a prevalent response to economic and geopolitical anxieties.

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This suggests that this behavior is a common way for people to manage stress and uncertainty about the future.

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Financial Strategies in Uncertain Times

Experts like Courtney Alev from Credit Karma advise individuals to adopt more mindful financial strategies to navigate economic uncertainties.

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By closely monitoring income, expenses, and debts, people can make more informed decisions about their spending and savings, potentially mitigating the impulse to engage in Doom Spending.

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