Millennial House-Hunters Might as Well Give Up on These Cities

NEW YORK (TheStreet) — America's Millennials are finally starting to get their first "real" jobs as the economy recovers, but affording their first homes will be another story — especially in the five metro areas below.

Home-buying site Zillow.com found recently that while the typical 23- to 34-year-old makes enough to afford some 70% of residences in most major cities, far fewer properties are within their reach in locales with the hottest economies.

"San Francisco, Seattle, Denver — places that have a lot of job creation and that many Millennials want to move to — those are more iffy," Zillow economist Svenja Gudell says.

Experts say the struggle to afford a first home represents a major stumbling block for Millennials' transition into adulthood and the real estate sector's full recovery from the housing bust.

Gudell says young adults stuck living in their parents' basements have hurt the housing market and the broader economy by failing to generate demand that would have otherwise sparked fresh home construction.

The economist says things are improving nationwide, but that some cities where Millennials are finding the best jobs have the smallest selection of homes they can actually afford. Gudell says markets with strong job growth often have "a ton of housing demand, which is pushing prices higher."

For instance, Zillow found that while Millennials in California's booming San Jose/Silicon Valley market enjoy an incredible $102,287 median annual household income, more than 60% of local homes are nonetheless beyond their reach. That's because the typical residence there costs $873,600 — the highest median for any metro area in America.

"I hate to say it, but even if you make a quarter of a million dollars in this valley, that's chump change," says Craig Gorman, president of the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors and sales manager for San Jose's Intero Real Estate Services.

Gudell adds that many hot markets have less affordability because investors have snapped up lower-priced properties and turned them into rentals.

Read on to see which of America's 96 most-populous metro areas have the smallest share of homes affordable by Millennials making a typical local wage for their age.

Researchers ranked cities based on what fraction of Zillow listings young people in a given market could pay for using no more than 30% of income to cover monthly mortgage bills.

The firm calculated median Millennial pay using U.S. Labor Department data for households headed by 23- to 34-year-olds. (Millennials living with their parents weren't counted.) Researchers used Zillow's fourth-quarter 2014 property listings for their study and assumed that buyers would purchase places using mortgages carrying 3.98% interest rates.

Fifth-worst market for Millennials: Fresno, Calif.
How much is unaffordable:
63.6%

Fresno bills itself as the Raisin Capital of the World, but Millennials who move there could find their dreams of homeownership shriveling up on the vine.

That's because Zillow discovered that the metro area's 23- to 34-year-olds have just a $35,577 median household income, or 28% below the $49,176 U.S. average.

At that level, they can afford only homes worth $194,988, which account for just 36.4% of the Fresno area's housing stock. By contrast, Millennials in the typical major metro area can buy 69.7% of their region's residences.

Gudell says that while the U.S. foreclosure crisis slammed Fresno hard, local property prices are "still relatively expensive" — especially when compared with Millennials' typical wages. "That low median income really dings them, and they have less access to housing," she says.

Fourth-worst market for Millennials: San Francisco
How much is unaffordable:
64.5%

The City by the Bay has lots of well-paid young workers, but San Francisco housing prices are so high you pretty much have to be Mark Zuckerberg to buy a place.

Zillow estimates that the median San Francisco residence will cost you $738,200 — second only to San Jose's prices as the highest among U.S. metro areas.

"Millennials can find great jobs and great amenities in San Francisco, but the housing costs are certainly high," Gudell says. "Rents and home prices just keep going up and up."

Zillow found that the typical Millennial household makes a hefty $82,028 a year, but can  afford only a $452,111 home. Just 35.5% of local residences cost that "little."

Third-worst market for Millennials: San Diego
How much is unaffordable:
72.9%

San Diego Millennials who want to buy homes will probably need to borrow money from their padres (or their madres).

While Zillow found that 23- to 34-year-olds make a decent $58,354 in median household income, they can only afford homes that cost $321,626 or less. Unfortunately, just 27.1% of San Diego-area housing falls into that category.

"San Diego has jobs and it's a desirable place to live, but the housing there is very, very expensive," Gudell says.

Second-worst market for Millennials: Los Angeles
How much is unaffordable:
74.5%

The City of Angels is a real devil when it comes to housing affordability for Millennials.

Even though the typical younger worker enjoys an above-average $56,669 a year in household income, that's only enough to pay for a $312,341 home, according to Zillow. 

That means nearly three-fourths of La-La Land's residences are about as off-limits to young buyers as the region's HOV lanes are to single-occupant cars.

"The story in Los Angeles is very similar to San Diego's," Gudell says. "You get slightly higher incomes, but not enough to cover the full expense of housing."


 

Worst market for Millennials: Honolulu
How much is unaffordable:
74.7%

Buying a home in Hawaii's largest metro area is no day at the beach if you're a Millennial.

While 23- to 34-year-old workers enjoy a solid $61,202 median household income there, they can only afford properties that sell for no more than $337,327. Only 25.3% of local homes fit that bill.

"Honolulu is just an extremely expensive housing market," Gudell says. "Even though incomes are higher than average there, it's just an incredibly expensive place to live."

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held TK positions in the stocks mentioned.

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