Engaged couple Ryan Runyeon and Malloree Hagerty, both millennials, are looking to buy a home. Realtor Austin Castro shows the pair some options in Centerville. STAFF PHOTO / HOLLY SHIVELY
Photo: Holly Shively
Photo: Holly Shively

Millennials struggle to afford homes: ‘The down payment thing is a big factor’

Nearly half of U.S. millennials who want to buy homes have no savings for a down payment, but the Dayton-area’s affordable housing market may be shielding the region from the full impact.

Stagnant wage growth, growing student debt and rapidly rising home values have compounded to leave millennials who want to buy homes struggling to find the cash. Almost nine in 10 millennial renters plan to buy a house in the future, but 30 percent won’t for more than five years, according to a recent study from apartmentlist.com.

But rent is high, said real estate agent Billie Duncan-Hart, and millennials who want to purchase a home can find mortgage payments that are roughly the same as the rent they’re already paying in most parts of the area. Even though median home prices continued rising amid short inventory last year, the Dayton area is still more affordable than most other metros in the nation.

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“Oftentimes the mortgage is cheaper than rent,” said Ryan Runyeon, a 26-year-old millennial who is actively looking to buy a home in the Dayton area with his fiance Malloree Hagerty, 25, both of Centerville. “I’ve done my research. … One thing you’ve got to think of is the property tax. You don’t have that with renting.”

Dayton also doesn’t have as many downtown luxury apartments that appeal to millennials wanting to rent, though that inventory is growing. The next generation is more likely to see more of those renting options that put off home buying, said millennial Realtor Austin Castro of Irongate Realty.

Yet fewer millennials are worried about paying their mortgage; it’s the initial down payment that puts home ownership out of reach for many young adults, according to the Apartment List study.

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“The down payment thing is a big factor. A lot of kids are coming with student loan debt and things like that that they’re concentrated on paying first,” Castro said.

Nearly 72 percent of millennials who want to buy homes said affordability is what stands in the way. More than 48 percent have no savings at all for a down payment and another 34 percent have less than $5,000.

In November, the median-priced home in the Dayton-area was $138,500, meaning a homebuyer would need about $27,700 in savings for a traditional 20 percent down payment.

Still, there are options that can put homebuying in reach.

“It’s just misinformation that that’s required. … There’s a lot of programs (with lower down payments),” said Bob Morrison, president of the Dayton Area Board of Realtors.

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The Federal Housing Administration offers loans with a down payment as low as 3.5 percent, but new homeowners would then pay mortgage insurance and interest rates would be higher. Even a 3.5 percent down payment would run $4,848 on the median home in Montgomery and its surrounding counties, when 82 percent of millennials said they have less than $5,000 in savings for a down payment.

“It’s definitely been a challenge. … Five or six years ago, there were one or two (low down-payment options). Now there’s a whole slew of them,” Castro said.

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There are also some no-down-payment loans for low-income home buyers, Duncan-Hart said.

And millennials face other issues in a healthy housing market, with growing median prices and homes that are sold withing 48 hours of hitting the market.

“Millennials oftentimes live in mom and dad’s house or an apartment month to month, so their buying track is definitely a little bit slower. They take their time, they’ll wait for the deal,” Castro said. “They’re from the information age, so they research the hell out of everything.”

Fewer millennial buyers isn’t a crisis yet, and Castro said he doesn’t expect it to end up one. But if buying slows more as millennials age and the following generation has some of the same habits, home values could drop as supply increases.

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