Millennials delay buying homes because of student debt

A new study from Clever Real Estate found that homeownership has become a casualty in the crisis of rising student loan debt. As the student debt load in the United States has risen to $1.6 trillion by the end of Q1 this year, 48% of young adults surveyed said they will delay buying a home because of their student loans.

According to a study on millennial homeownership from the Urban Institute, the homeownership rate of those aged 25 to 34 was only 37%. That’s 8% lower than the homeownership rates of Gen Xers and baby boomers at the same age.

“If the homeownership rate for millennials had stayed the same as previous generations,” the study noted, “there would be about 3.4 million more homeowners today.”

The study found that 36% more graduates who had paid off their debt (or never had any) owned a home and graduates who paid off their debt were 7 times more likely to own their home outright.


Roughly 40% of millennials have student loan debt, according to the AARP, and Clever Real Estate says it pushes back home buying for millennials by nearly 8 years.

A dream delayed

A study from the Federal Reserve noted that “a $1,000 increase in student loan debt lowers the homeownership rate by about 1.5 percentage points for public 4-year college-goers during their mid 20s, equivalent to an average delay of 2.5 months in attaining homeownership.” With the average student loan burden roughly $37,000, that’s a 7.7 year delay.

And 84% of young adults say they still desire to buy a home, despite studies that show more than 60% of millennials regret the purchase.

This isn’t just a problem at the margins. By 2012, 71% of all students graduating from a 4-year college or university had a student loan. Average debt has only been increasing over time, ticking upward to $37,000 from nearly $9,500 in 1993. The current levels are more than 3 times higher than they were in 2006.

As most people know, the cost of college in the U.S. is expensive — and getting costlier each year. In the past decade, the price of a four-year college degree from a private institution has jumped from $28,440 to $35,830. When including room and board, that number rises to $48,510, according to data from College Board. Public tuition has also been on the rise, increasing from roughly $7,500 to more than $10,000. That number doubles when factoring in room and board.

The domino effect

And this only has knock-on effects in the economy.

To help their children pay for school, more than 50% of parents are willing to go into debt by as much as $31,000. And once they graduate, half of American parents are skimping on their retirement to help pay for their children’s bills, including their student loans.

The student loan crisis doesn’t just impact home ownership. Millennials are delaying marriage and having children as they grapple with the burdens of their debt. Saving for retirement, buying a car, and donating money to charity are also negatively impacted. Without student loan debt, 54% of those surveyed said they would save for a down payment on a home. Slightly more than half – 51% – said they would build their emergency savings, closely followed by saving for retirement.

“Undergraduates with student loans are 8 times as likely to take out an additional personal loan and 71% more likely to use a high-interest credit card, perpetuating a cycle of debt for lower-income families,” the Clever Real Estate report stated. What’s more, most people believe that they will be able to pay off their debt within 15 years. In reality, studies show it takes 21 years on average to pay off student loans.

A college degree still pays off in the long run; studies show it is worth $2.8 million on average over a lifetime. What’s more, those with a bachelor’s degree earn 31% more than those with an Associate’s degree — and 84% more than those with just a high school diploma. But as more millennials put off purchasing a house, it’s a bitter pill to swallow.

Kristin Myers is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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