For previous generations such as Baby Boomers and Gen X, buying a home was a part of the American dream. With the housing market crash of 2007, increasing home costs, high student and credit card debt, the millennial generation faced difficult circumstances as they entered adulthood. In a real estate market as strong as Bozeman's, it can be even harder for the millennial generation to set roots and buy a home.
Most millennials have a dream of one day owning a home, it is just on a different timeline than previous generations. They aren't thinking of it during their twenties rather waiting until they are in their thirties to settle down. A lot of this has to do with this generation getting married and having children later in life. These big life events usually trigger buying a home, so all of it gets delayed until later. There are other factors that lead to why it's harder for millennials to obtain homeownership. Affordability is a big one, especially in a real estate market like Bozeman. There are definitely cities that are more affordable, however, a lot of millennials aren't willing to relocate for affordable housing and more likely to move for a lifestyle, which is a big reason they end up in Bozeman. Getting a loan has become more difficult as well. With tighter lending rules and 20% down payments, it can take longer to save money for a downpayment. This, on top of student debt, can create major hurdles in the home buying process for millennials.
It IS still possible for millennials to buy a home. If they have a goal, it just takes planning early on. Making a point to save money, not accruing credit card debt, or living a lifestyle outside of their means. Talking to a local lender early on to find out what their credit looks like, what options are out there and how to meet those goals. There are programs available to make buying a home a possibility. First time home buyer programs through non-profits such as HRDC can be an option. There are programs for former or active military members. These are things to ask a lender to find out what you can take advantage of.
When it comes to Bozeman, millennials are attracted to our community for the lifestyle it brings. Skiing, a vibrant cultural scene, MSU, and a growing community draw many millenials here. The idea of mountain living is popular across the country right now (thanks Instagram) and Bozeman fits that lifestyle perfectly. What can prevent them from staying long term is Bozeman's high cost of living and lack of high paying jobs. Job creation will be important as Bozeman grows in order to keep a balance between the younger generations and retirees moving to Bozeman.
As some people get priced out of Bozeman, the surrounding areas are seeing an influx of millennials buying homes. Livingston has seen a lot of change in the past five years as young professionals are choosing to make the commute and buy a home in this growing community. They have a vibrant downtown, breweries, art galleries, and a growing music scene. Belgrade is closer to Bozeman and they are working on how this community will change as it grows. Three Forks and Manhattan are a little further out, but both are becoming options for younger generations hoping to buy a home.
2020 will be a big year for millennials who are reaching towards homeownership. Many will be reaching their 30's this year which is a peak home-buying age. At the same time, we are hitting a time when baby boomers are downsizing or saying goodbye to homeownership altogether making more inventory available for the younger generations. This will be helpful as we continue to have supply and demand problems in the real estate market.
We recently sat down with Bronson Neff, a millennial and real estate professional to hear his take on if millennials can buy a home in Bozeman. Click here to listen to the podcast on Spotify or click here to listen on iTunes.