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Millennials fare the worst in housing crunch, study shows [The Mercury News :: BC-REAL-MILLENNIALS:SJ]

Avocado-toast-munching, Netflix-binge-watching millennials make up nearly a quarter of the Bay Area's population, but you wouldn't know it by looking at Realtor Kevin Swartz's open houses.

That's probably because the homes Swartz shows in west San Jose and Sunnyvale generally start at $1.7 million.

"There are very few millennials that can afford that," Swartz said.

The housing crunch disproportionately affects millennials, pricing them out of the market or forcing them to make major concessions in the search for their dream home, according to a new nationwide study by real estate website Trulia.

Millennials, ages 20 to 36, are the largest prospective home buying generation, but 98 percent of those hoping to become home owners in the next year have encountered obstacles that derailed those plans - and the most commonly reported hurdle was rising prices, according to the survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Trulia. Of those hoping to buy a home at some point, 90 percent of millennials reported having to put their plans on hold, compared to 77 percent of Gen Xers and 61 percent of baby boomers.

"For millennials trying to buy a home, and especially in the Bay Area, there's not much out there," said Trulia analyst Alexandra Lee. "And what is out there is older homes that need TLC. There aren't many of them, and they are expensive."

That's led to a cut-throat and often demoralizing market, as 35-year-old Ryan Lillis found out this year while shopping for a home with his wife in the East Bay. They wanted a house with a pool and a big backyard for their two young children. After getting outbid on offer after offer - sometimes by as much as $100,000 - they abandoned those expectations.

"It's a hard process," said Lillis, who works selling medical devices. "You can't attach too quickly. You can't hope for something."

But after looking at two dozen homes, and expanding their search area outside of the San Ramon and Danville area, Lillis and his wife in April closed on a $1 million, four-bedroom home in Dublin that has the two features they'd all but given up on - a pool and a big backyard.

Not all millennial home buyers are so lucky. In San Jose, starter homes - defined as homes priced in the bottom third of the market - listed at a median price of $692,296 in the first quarter of this year, up 12 percent from a year ago, according to Trulia.

That means buyers Trulia thinks are most likely to want a starter home would need to spend 104 percent of their income to afford a 20 percent down payment, monthly mortgage payments, property taxes and home insurance. That's based on an income of $39,786 in San Jose. Trulia got that number by finding the median income of homeowners within the lowest income bracket, after dividing homeowners into three income brackets.

There were 287 starter homes for sale in San Jose in the first quarter of 2018, down 20 percent from a year ago, according to Trulia.

In Oakland, starter homes listed at a median price of $444,666 in the first quarter - up nearly 9 percent from a year ago - meaning home buyers in that market would need to spend 77 percent of their income to afford that price tag. There were 388 starter homes available, down 33 percent from a year ago.

Starter homes make up an important piece of the real estate ecosystem, particularly in the Bay Area, where the generation that typically would be in the market for those homes - millennials - comprised 24 percent of the population in 2015, according to the Brookings Institution.

Many millennials are realizing dwindling supply and soaring prices means they need to make tough choices about what they're willing to do without, according to the Trulia survey, which gathered responses from 2,026 U.S. residents. Nationally, 84 percent of millennials said they were willing to give up home features in exchange for living in their ideal neighborhood. Thirty-four percent said they could give up a garage, 32 percent didn't need a recently updated kitchen, and 30 percent were willing to compromise on square footage. Just 16 percent wouldn't make any concessions.

Those who aren't willing to make concessions may have to abandon their search - that's what happened to a couple Swartz represented as they shopped for a $2 million home in Sunnyvale. After continuously getting outbid, the clients increased their budget to $2.2 million and expanded their search area to include Santa Clara. They thought that would help them land a home that had the one attribute they weren't willing to compromise on - lots of space to host family members when they visited from overseas.

But it wasn't enough.

"They ended up just giving up," Swartz said, and last he heard, they were considering moving out of the area.


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