Middle Class, Millennials Hard Hit By Housing Market

The middle class is having an increasingly difficult time buying homes in the current market, potentially worsening the prospects of millennials and young families to make such an investment.

A study from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) was released Monday, as The Wall Street Journal reported, showing how the rise in the cost of homes and a steep drop in the number of houses being sold have had an effect on many Americans when it comes to buying houses. 

The study showed that at the end of 2021, there were around 411,000 fewer houses on the market that were thought to be affordable for households making between $75,000 and $100,000 than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. “At the end of 2019, there was one available listing that was affordable for every 24 households in this income bracket. By December 2021, the figure was one listing for every 65 households,” the Journal noted. 

“The study, the first of its kind from NAR, calculated affordability for different income tiers by assuming households use a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage and don’t spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs, including taxes and insurance,” the outlet added. 

The NAR study didn’t just look at the regular methods of accounting for “housing affordability,” but it also considered the supply of houses for sale at different costs. It discovered that “housing affordability” got worse over the past two years for everyone except for Americans at the top of the income bracket. Every income group suffered, however, as the number of homes being sold went down. 

Many people took advantage of some of the effects of the pandemic with regard to the real estate market. Some who were purchasing houses looked to use the low mortgage rates and transition into larger homes, but the number of houses for sale went down and house construction also slowed, leading some people to put off trying to sell their homes.  

“Households earning between $75,000 and $100,000 could afford to buy 51% of the active housing inventory in December, NAR said, down from 58% in December 2019,” the Journal reported. The decline was the second-largest drop in all income groups. The largest was the income bracket of households making between $100,000 and $125,000. In that bracket, affordability went down 8 points to 63% of the listed houses.

On Monday, Time Magazine reported on a new poll showing how Americans’ feelings about the housing market are at a record low. 

According to a monthly Fannie Mae poll, only 25% of Americans said it’s a good time to buy a house. In addition, 69% of those surveyed said it’s a good time to sell a house, which is another record high in the sequence that goes back to more than a decade ago.

“Younger consumers—more so than other groups—expect home prices to rise even further,” Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist, said, per Time. “They also reported a greater sense of macroeconomic pessimism.”

Bloomberg further reported on how the housing issue is specifically affecting families, writing, “A Zillow Group Inc. analysis of 421 U.S. counties, representing more than 70% of the population, found that zip codes with the biggest share of children under 18 saw faster increases in house prices about two-thirds of the time.”

The Zillow report also noted that more millennials will turn 32 years old over the span of the coming two years than in the past, which is the “peak age for first-time home buyers.” This could add to the situation and make houses in family-friendly locations even more competitive and house prices increase even quicker.

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