How Millennials Are Shifting the Housing Market

They’re settling in urban centers. In many ZIP codes, they’re already the majority. And they spend their money on rent.

It’s tough being a millennial. Millennials are accused of killing entire industries: casual dining chains that should have been killed off by a prior generation, beer (sez Goldman Sachs), napkins, homeownership, Harley Davidson, banks, diamonds, and brick-and-mortar retailers. OK, things change. But there’s one thing the largest US generation ever is not killing off: urban centers. They’re flocking to them, in some case they’re gentrifying them – for better or worse – and they’re often paying sky-high rents.

For example, in downtown Los Angeles, the two adjacent ZIP codes 90014 and 90013 (which includes Skid Row) are being rapidly gentrified with a high-rise building boom. And the millennial population has soared over a five-year period, by 91% in ZIP code 90014 and by 60% in ZIP code 90013. These two ZIP codes have the fastest-growing population of millennials among any large ZIP codes in the 30 biggest US cities, according to a report and data by Yardi’s RentCafé.

The population data – based on the Census Bureau American Community Survey’s five-year population estimates – shows that ZIP codes in or near downtowns are sought out by millennials. In many of those ZIP codes, millennials are now the majority of the population.

The millennial population in Lower Manhattan ZIP code 10282, which includes Battery Park, jumped by 55% over the five-year span. But with an average rent of $5,657 a month, it’s the most expensive ZIP code in the US, according to RentCafé. Wall Street pays well.

The table below shows the top 20 ZIP Codes in large cities that had the biggest percentage increase in the millennial population. The table also shows average rent by ZIP code where available. None of these ZIP codes are cheap, though some of them could be deemed reasonable, by New York City or San Francisco standards.

For this study, the areas are divided into three categories:

  • “Downtown” (DT): an area locally known as “downtown,” “city center,” or “central business district.”
  • “Near downtown” (nDT): within 3 miles of downtown.
  • “Neighborhood” (NH)

In the table, “M-pop” isn’t a kind of music, the “millennial population” in that ZIP code.

# ZIP City  Area   Type   M-Pop  Rise   Avg. Rent
1 90014 Los Angeles, CA Downtown DT              3,300 91% $2,531
2 90013 Los Angeles, CA Downtown / Skid Row DT              4,700 60% $2,257
3 10282 New York, NY Lower Manhattan DT              2,300 55% $5,657
4 97232 Portland, OR Kerns / Laurelhurst nDT              5,700 52% $1,637
5 10069 New York, NY Uptown Manhattan NH              2,200 48% $4,191
6 32204 Jacksonville, FL Springfield nDT              3,000 45% $1,444
7 90048 Los Angeles, CA Mid-Wilshire NH            10,300 39% $4,391
8 19125 Philadelphia, PA Kensington nDT            11,200 37% N/A
9 94114 San Francisco, CA Castro nDT            12,500 37% N/A
10 20024 Washington, DC Southwest Waterfront nDT              5,100 37% $2,250
11 89113 Las Vegas, NV Sovana NH              9,600 37% $1,335
12 80206 Denver, CO Congress Park nDT            10,700 37% $2,435
13 98101 Seattle, WA Downtown DT              5,500 36% $2,816
14 94131 San Francisco, CA Glen Park NH              9,000 36% N/A
15 80209 Denver, CO Washington Park NH            10,000 35% $2,151
16 80224 Denver, CO Virginia Village NH              5,800 34% N/A
17 78756 Austin, TX Brentwood NH              4,000 34% $1,271
18 80237 Denver, CO Hampden South NH              7,000 33% $1,628
19 92116 San Diego, CA North Park NH            15,000 33% N/A
20 19123 Philadelphia, PA Kensington nDT              7,300 33% $1,657

Note that Denver has four ZIP codes in this list; Los Angeles has three on this list; New York, San Francisco, and Philadelphia two each. Also note the average rents by ZIP code, in the right column (where available). Some millennials at least are making nice amounts of money – and they’re spending it too – on rent!

For the purpose of this report, millennials were born between 1977-1996. RentCafé eliminated ZIP codes that overlapped with University Campuses and US Military Bases or that contained penitentiaries and correctional facilities. The names of the neighborhoods and their ZIP codes are from the US Post Office and are approximate.

Another way of looking at where the millennials are clustering together is by ZIP code with the largest proportion of millennials – and these are not the ZIP codes with the biggest percentage increases, as seen above.

Below is a table of the 20 ZIP codes where millennials dominate in number — ranging from 60% to 73% of the total population in that ZIP code. At the top is the “consecrated millennial hub,” as the report calls it: Chicago’s West Loop in ZIP code 60661, where 73% of the residents are millennials. The area, which sports a building boom of apartment buildings, is adjacent to the central business district, “the Loop.”

In second place is 19127 in Philadelphia, where 71% of the residents are millennials. The neighborhood, Manayunk, runs along the Schuylkill River and is known, as RentCafé puts it, “for its flourishing small businesses, wide range of leisure activities and dining choices.”

In third place is 10005 in Lower Manhattan, where millennials make up 71% of the population. This is the Financial District and includes Wall St., the actual street.

You’ll also find Oklahoma City’s central business district on this list, along with the Arts District in Dallas, the Astrodome area in Houston, etc. In other words, there are concentrations of millennials in major cities spread across the country. All except for two are either downtown or near downtown.

# ZIP City  Area   Type  Share  M-Pop   Avg Rent
1 60661 Chicago, IL West Loop DT 73%              6,800 $2,195
2 19127 Philadelphia, PA Manayunk NH 71%              4,500 $1,876
3 10005 New York, NY Wall Street DT 71%              6,200 $3,579
4 02113 Boston, MA North End DT 70%              5,200 N/A
5 20036 Washington, DC Dupont Circle DT 69%              3,900 $2,449
6 80203 Denver, CO Capitol Hill DT 66%            13,500 $1,691
7 10006 New York, NY Wall Street DT 66%              2,200 $3,422
8 75201 Dallas, TX Arts District DT 65%              8,800 $2,050
9 10018 New York, NY Midtown West nDT 64%              6,200 $4,299
10 94158 San Francisco, CA Mission Bay nDT 63%              3,800 $4,336
11 73102 Oklahoma City, OK Business District nDT 63%              3,300 $1,223
12 77054 Houston, TX Astrodome NH 63%            14,400 $1,167
13 43215 Columbus, OH Downtown DT 62%              8,600 $1,327
14 28202 Charlotte, NC Fourth Ward/Uptown DT 62%              7,400 $1,782
15 75202 Dallas, TX Downtown DT 61%              1,400 $1,702
16 78751 Austin, TX Hyde Park nDT 61%              8,900 $1,504
17 60654 Chicago, IL River North DT 61%            10,500 $2,619
18 60642 Chicago, IL  Goose Island nDT 60%            11,700 $2,342
19 19102 Philadelphia, PA Center City West DT 60%              2,900 $2,120
20 46204 Indianapolis, IN  Near North DT 60%              4,200 $1,403

And finally, the 20 ZIP codes with the largest millennial population in absolute terms. Some of these ZIP codes are very large, and while there are many millennials on those ZIP codes, the percentage of millennials compared to the total population may not be that large.

At the top is 11211 in Brooklyn, where the average rent of $3,200 a month is an outright steal compared to Battery Park in Lower Manhattan (#3 in the first table, $5,657). Nine out of these 20 ZIP codes are in New York City, but none are in Manhattan.

Chicago has six zip codes on this list; Los Angeles only one. You’ll also find El Paso, TX, on it, and at the bottom, San Francisco’s Inner Mission.

# ZIP City  Area   Type   M-Pop  Avg Rent 
1 11211 Brooklyn, NY  Williamsburg nDT                      43,700 $3,247
2 60657 Chicago, IL Lakeview NH                      41,500 $1,657
3 11368 Queens, NY Corona NH                      40,700 $1,919
4 60647 Chicago, IL Logan Square NH                      40,600 $1,920
5 60618 Chicago, IL  Irving Park NH                      37,100 $1,201
6 60614 Chicago, IL  Lincoln Park NH                      36,300 $1,787
7 60629 Chicago, IL Chicago Lawn NH                      35,700 $1,900
8 11220 Brooklyn, NY Sunset Park NH                      34,800 N/A
9 11385 Queens, NY Glendale NH                      34,700 N/A
10 90011 Los Angeles, CA  Southeast LA nDT                      33,500 N/A
11 11226 Brooklyn, NY Flatbush NH                      33,300 $2,202
12 79936 El Paso, TX  East Side NH                      33,300 $846
13 77084 Houston, TX Addicks NH                      32,600 $1,064
14 11206 Brooklyn, NY  Williamsburg nDT                      32,000 $2,783
15 11221 Brooklyn, NY Bushwick NH                      31,800 N/A
16 11373 Queens, NY Elmhurst NH                      31,600 $1,921
17 60608 Chicago, IL Pilsen nDT                      31,400 $926
18 60625 Chicago, IL  Lincoln Square NH                      31,200 $1,144
19 11377 Queens, NY Woodside NH                      31,000 $1,856
20 94110 San Francisco, CA Inner Mission nDT                      30,500 N/A

Millennials, because of their very large number, are going to shuffle things around a little, much like the baby boomers did when they arrived in the workforce and the housing market. And the housing market has been greeting them as a large opportunity.

Rents have plunged from their respective peaks in Chicago & Honolulu, have spiraled down in New York, Washington DC, & others, but are surging in many markets. Read… Update on Rental Bubbles & Crashes in US Cities

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  102 comments for “How Millennials Are Shifting the Housing Market

  1. Sabbie says:

    This won’t last. It’s only because of their age, not any special inclination. When they get to their 30s and 40s, they’ll flee for the burbs just like everyone else did, looking for less crime, more space, etc.

    • Charles says:


      I’m not certain of this theory! Millennials Seem to view life differently than my generation, I’m in my early 50’s. Financially, Millennials have grown up with a cash flow management principle geared towards lifestyle enhancements today rather than a save and wait mentality. They seem to be functioning in the fashion that Jeff Bezos has been advocating for “work life harmony” rather than the work life balance my generation strived to achieve. This means a more interconnected life whereby the separation between personal life/space and work must shrink. This sudo gentrification of our urban city environments with Millennials seems like the logical outcome. Just my observation. Thoughts?


      • Harrold says:

        Millennials will move to a new location with better schools when they have children.

        • Wisdom Seeker says:

          IF they have children.

          Per the article, the data are for the group of people born 1977-1996. The ones on the older end are over 40 already. They probably won’t be starting families if they haven’t already. The youngsters in the group are still in their 20s.

          Like their parents’ generation, this group will include a lot of Yuppie DINKs. Maybe without the “upwardly-mobile” part of YUPPie, though.

          Shame so few people today see the value in raising a family. It won’t show up on GDP reports or in conspicuous-consumption lifestyle, but it’s by far the best thing most people will do in life, if they do it well. Definitely better than most of the urban-living wallet-draining distractions IMO.

        • Broker Dan says:

          They are already doing that.

    • RepubAnon says:

      I disagree – look at commute times, and you’ll see why Millennials are living downtown. If they’re within mass transit range of their job, they don’t need a car – no car payment, no insurance…

      • QQQBall says:

        Yes. My daughter does not have a drivers license. My son thinks cars are stoopid. When I was a teen, getting a car was freedom. My chillrens think differently.

        • QQQBall says:

          One other difference – my son has no loyalty to the company he works for. He has been in NYC for 3-4 years and has changed jobs twice (3 companies total). HE says if they do not promote by next year, he will leave. Its not like thinking you will work for aerospace or automobile manufacturer forever so you buy a house in the ‘burbs. Though he doesn’t own a car, mentally he is very mobile.

      • IdahoPotato says:

        My millennial techie nephew turned down many job offers from the Bay Area. He is content in Austin, TX. Walks to work, owns no car and rents. Saves a lot and is very discerning about buying quality over quantity.

        His kid brother wants to know why he needs to learn driving in an era of driverless cars.

    • WR says:

      I wonder how many of these millenials are using student loans to pay for rent (yes you can use a student loan to do just about anything!)

      Once they graduate they must move as most jobs don’t pay enough to cover the necessary 0.35 rent to salary ratio for a major metro area.

      Wolf’s use of the word ‘flocking’ to describe millenial bird-like migration to these areas is appropriate as they must soon move on to their next nesting grounds. Why they’re moving to LA is strange, unless they all want to become actors.

      Should the student loan scam ever stop large parts of the American economy will collapse.

      • NoEasyDay says:

        >Should the student loan scam ever stop large parts of the
        >American economy will collapse.

        Hopefully that includes the luxury student housing syndicates.

        • MB732 says:

          NED are luxury student housing syndicates really ‘a thing’? If you have more info I’d be interested.

          My daughter’s school just built beautiful housing units over retail with a park-like feel, that rivals any urban gentrification projects.

          Assuming most college students are living off parents or borrowing heavily, it gives me a nagging feeling that this lifestyle is inappropriate for the students’ college years.

        • Wolf Richter says:


          “Student housing” is a thriving sub-sector of commercial real estate, and investment opportunities in it are constantly touted. These are not the dorm rooms of yore. These are nice apartments with nice kitchens (granite countertops, etc.). “Luxury” may be a push by today’s standards, but it certainly is luxury compared to the dumps my generation lived in when we were in college.

        • Petunia says:


          Yes, student luxury housing is a real thing. It is securitized on Wall St. and the schools get upfront money and recurring income from screwing the students. The schools usually allocated land on campus to build them, which is what makes them more attractive to students and families. Where my son went to school in Florida, they built apts with two master bedroom suites sharing a living room. What college kid needs that?

        • Ace Bragg says:

          My dorm room was a glorified jail cell. No cable TV, no A/C. Just a cinder block box. Communal bathrooms. Of course I graduated college without ever taking out a loan either.

      • two cents says:

        “For the purpose of this report, millennials were born between 1977-1996.” This puts the youngest millenials at 22 years old with the majority of the generation being over the age of 30. So no, they are not using student loans to pay rent. They are working jobs- often more than 1. I am a millenial with 3 jobs and a Master’s degree working in a major city. My husband is a millenial. He also has a Master’s degree and is a VP at a major financial firm. Most of our money goes to paying rent, groceries, childcare, and student loans. We don’t buy avocados or toast. We go to free events on weekends and even became vegan to lower our grocery bill. Any money left after bills goes to our child’s future so hopefully he can have a better financial life than us. My husband and I have no retirement savings, property, investments or even much in our savings account. We will never move to the suburbs because it is not affordable. We might save $800 a month on rent but that would easily be lost to train fares, a car, and extra childcare, etc. We already tried. Millenials will stay in cities because it actually isn’t cheaper to live outside of them. At least in a city you can still enjoy life when you are broke. In the suburbs having no money is just depressing.

    • MCH says:

      Not so sure about that, if you look at the definition of age group; 1977 to 1996. The spread of this group is in terms of age is between 22 to 40. If we take the middle ground, half of these are over the age of 30 already. Certainly a good quarter of these are 35 and over. My guess is there are two forces that’s keeping them from the burbs.

      One, economics, they can’t afford the burbs, certainly it would be problematic in California. But other areas as well. They make enough money to be able to afford renting decent places, but not enough to afford owning a place out in the burbs.

      Second, they have a good life style, like the others said, no need for a car, no need for parking, Ubers and mass transit take care of their needs. Life is pretty convenient. It’s something they’re used to. At those ages, people usually think they have forever to settle down.

      But there is still a lot of data missing, for example, if you look at the population data, this is at best a small segment of the Millennial population. I’d be curious to see where the rest of those are, and where the population above stand relative to their peers in terms of socio-economic status. (i.e. how much money do they have?)

      • DF says:

        I agree, I suspect that these numbers say “urban-core neighborhoods are full of Millennials” rather than “millennials mostly live in urban cores”.

        Most of the Millennials I know *don’t* live in urban cores, and this includes a lot of people I grew up with in an NYC suburb.

      • Crysangle says:

        Agree also. A fairer data set would look at the change in population by age, not date of birth, then cross that with change in national demographic. It is normal that older is replaced by younger, to read stats just by date of birth gives a false impression.

        Similar story for Brexit vote, just by choice of vote by agegroup and the percentage joining or dropping off, the vote now, with all else being equal, would be remain. The independent carried that story. However it does not mean that the number of any particular age group has changed.

        Have to be careful how stats are used.

      • Adam says:

        Just to note, the more common definition for Millennial range has it started around 1981-1982, so not too many over 35 by that metric.

        • Plumas One says:

          Agreed, Adam. TIME mag in May, 2013 defined births from
          1980-2000 as Gen Y or Millennials.

    • Joan of Arc says:

      The two biggest expenses are housing and car ownership. If a millennial couple foregoes 2 autos, two associated auto insurance policies, two gasoline and auto maintenance bills, in effect, they then live rent free. They also have fewer medical bills because they walk more and eat avocados on whole wheat bread and other health foods at places like Whole Foods where the prices dropped thanks to Jeff Bezos. They are also leaving a smaller carbon footprint.

      When millennials do buy a van or SUV, many times they live in it…once again living rent free.

      The smartest millennials live in their parent’s basements and do the yardwork instead of pay rent. They use the parent’s car or walk and use Uber…thus putting money not spent on housing and automobile ownership into savings while further restricting their carbon footprint.

      • A Citizen says:

        And thus, by paying obeisance to their Climate Change religion they do in fact “check out” of the real economy, enjoying “a more interconnected life whereby the separation between personal life/space and work must [has] shrink [shrunk]. ”

        Seriously. Eight hours of vacuous interaction with similarly vacuous minds, followed by hours of hook-up fun with the same vacuous minds.


        And that all adds up to a lot of unhappy unfulfilled lives lived under the watchful eye of the nanny corporatist state, devoid of any real commitment, growth or created value.

        Hopefully your analysis of their carbon-footprint based motivation is flawed, and they’ll do the same thing prior generations did: Get a job, live close by, find a career, search for fulfillment in a viable relationship, and contribute to society in ways more meaningful than donning the corporate tee-shirt and virtual signal by picking up road side garbage.

        • IdahoPotato says:

          My millennial friends are wiser and more balanced than many grouchy others I know. I enjoy hanging around with them.

      • AlexX says:

        This is a thread-hijacking thing which I hate but must chime in re: carbon footprint, I live and work in the center of a large city (top 3) in a very blue state and know and work with a gazillion millennials, and I’d put it at 70/30 either don’t care or are at the least very skeptical of the notion. Many see it as just another marketing fad (LEED certified! woo hoo), political gambit, Wall St/business racket, or honestly, just have bigger fish to fry. It’s way way down the list of things on their minds. Feels like a faddish topic that”s had it’s day. To the main point, to most of them, living in the burbs w mortgage, cars, freeway commutes is as alien as living in Narnia to them.

    • Gibbon1 says:

      > looking for less crime

      Over the last 30 years the city cores got really really safe.

      • NoEasyDay says:

        >Over the last 30 years the city cores got really really safe.

        Do the lead abatement programs deserve any credit here?

        • Lou Mannheim says:

          Maybe at the edges, it really has to do with crime reduction which lead to a renewed appreciation for the benefits of urban living (convenience mostly). I moved to NYC in 1991 – the city was still reeling from the crack epidemic and attendant crime, but over the next few years that dissipated and people started moving back in.

        • KFritz says:

          If by lead abatement you mean the removal of tetraethyl lead from gasoline, there’s a strong correlation between the downward trend of violent crime, and both lead abatement and legalized abortion. You took the words right out from under my fingertips, so to speak!

        • NoEasyDay says:

          >”…removal of tetraethyl lead from gasoline…”

          I was thinking of residential paint chips around window sills.

    • Corbin Dallas says:

      Your age shows with your “less crime” BS. What crime exists that we are running from? If you take your eyes off the fearmongering TV, you’ll see that living among your fellow man actually is a really nice, supportive thing.

    • Ambrose Bierce says:

      The migration of Mils would shadow the first generational shift from urban to suburban? Their grandparents? Possible esp with self driving cars and Elon Musk rapid transit tunnels. Affordable rapid transit is the key. I always remember that final scene in Good Fellas when Henry is in witness protection in the ‘burbs’, a sort of death row for a city kid.

    • Timthetiny says:

      A large chunk of the millenials are in their 30s already

    • R Davis says:

      “they will flee for the burbs just like everyone else did”

      Like the generation before them ??
      This generation will have less or no children – the whole world is in the throws of below replacement fertility – we are fast approaching no more children of man – IVF is a failed invention.
      Dogs & other pets – they will take the place of our lost kids & off to the burbs they will go – to give them a better life.

      I’m not so sure ….

  2. Dale says:

    So the prevailing impoverishment of millennials has been self-inflicted. Shocked.

  3. Melissa says:

    Millennial here who rents 4 miles from downtown Seattle. Could buy a house but prefer to rent because it’s cheaper and I can invest the difference. Won’t be having any children, so no need to move to the burbs. Most of my fellow millennial coworkers, relatives, and friends do plan to buy a house, but some don’t. At least half of them do not want children for various reasons such as cost, hassle, and environmental reasons.

    • Joan of Arc says:

      No wonder why millennials can hang out and eat avocado toast everyday at Whole Foods. Many of them have eliminated rent or house payments by living in parent’s basements, eliminated automobile ownership by walking or using Uber, eliminated health care costs by walking more and eating healthy, and eliminated child rearing expenses by not reproducing. The net effect of all of the above is increased savings for retirement, a reduced carbon footprint, and a possible solution (if most everyone did likewise) to the ongoing anthropogenically induced 6th major mass extinction that the planet’s biosphere is now undergoing due to human activity.

      • A Citizen says:

        Do you prefer grape, or strawberry?

      • Setarcos says:

        Employers are increasingly large multinationals as smaller employers have been squeezed out by the rules & regulations large corps are paying for ..the job opportunites are increasingly concentrated. Capitalism is conflated with crony capitalism and the distinction has been lost, e.g. among many millennials and other segments. Housing follows employment.

        Inclusion, equality, diversity, etc. are included in the concepts promoted by multinational corporations, but do not recall seeing freedom. Are employment and housing trends consistent with these concepts, including freedom?

  4. Old dog says:

    Disclaimer: What I’m going to say is totally anecdotal and intuitive. I haven’t found ample evidence that supports my views.

    First, the anecdote. When I was young I subscribed to MAD magazine. This was an irreverent magazine that used humor to do social commentary. The artists depicted our generation as a bunch of indolent kids, and that of our parents as a generation lost in a cloud of confusion, their desires, fears, ambitions overwhelmed by life’s challenges. Our parents ages were similar to the millennials age today. I struggle to see the differences.

    Having said that, millennials seem to have an easier time than our parents when it comes to hooking up with members of the other sex (or same). They also seem to be more apathetic when it comes to participating in politics. We were deeply affected by the Vietnam war (1955-1975) and its wake. The effervescence of the Civil Rights movement united us above our differences. I don’t know what unites millenials. I don’t know what they stand for and what they expect from life. Maybe that’s the reason Congress is pack full of old-farts.

    What I know for certain is that millennials are made of atoms and genes like everybody else and that they have come to this world to procreate, like everybody else. They have postponed marriage and family forming but they can only postpone it so much. My faith in our genetic invariability makes me believe that when millennial mothers start popping out babies they will see that raising kids in large cities sucks and they will want to move to the suburbs. Even if the schools aren’t as great and the commute is longer. Genes have a way to make themselves heard above the noise, and through the fog of our confusion.

    Maybe I’ll lose this bet but that’s what my intuition tells me.

    • Jason Boxman says:

      Ease of hooking up varies by region. OKC (dating site) crunched the numbers and found that, for example, it’s easier to find a sex parter out west than in much of New England. It’s region specific in the aggregate.

  5. Jos Oskam says:

    I am rapidly becoming an old geezer (or am already at 59) and was like so many of my generation brought up with the notion of “capital formation”. As a logical consequence I was encouraged at a young age to buy a house because, as the argument goes, a life of paying rent leaves you with nothing, a life of paying off a mortgage leaves you with a house.

    All of this leaves me wondering how these millennials see their future, especially when they become of such an age that their attractiveness in the job market begins to fade. And let’s not talk about how (and on what) they intend to retire.

    One of the other commenters mentioned he’s using the money he saves on not owning to invest and that sounds like a good plan to me. However, I get the impression that the majority of millennials more or less live by the day. Do they trust social security for their old age or what?

    Also, more in general, the absurd rents being paid in some places absolutely make me shudder. It gives me the feeling that we are fast approaching a rentier society, where normal people no longer are able to own anything outright, but are more and more put in the role of serfs. Kind of like a feudal system 2.0. The economist Michael Hudson certainly has something to say about this.

    Although I wish millennials all the best, I think that all this renting instead of owning is an ominous development. But what do I know?

    • Melissa says:

      I see your point about renting versus owning. Every time my husband and I receive a letter from our landlord, we fear that he is finally selling the house and kicking us out. If we owned our own place, then we would have more control over if/when we move, and that would certainly give us peace of mind. Plus we could be building equity if we owned. However, there are other ways to build wealth, and my husband and I have opted to rent a cheap place because it allows us to max out our respective 401K and ESPPs. We do eventually plan to buy a house in the city when we have significant funds such that our monthly mortgage payment (+ insurance & taxes) is close to what we currently pay in rent (which is dirt cheap for Seattle).

      We have grown accustomed to having a healthy disposable income that we can invest and spend on other luxuries such as eating out, nice groceries (avocados), our cats, and vacations. Many millennials we know share these values and are content with renting if renting affords us these other luxuries and freedoms. YOLO!

      It is unfortunate that home ownership is so difficult for most right now because that is how many people build wealth- it’s a very tangible asset unlike a 401K or stocks. If only things were different..

      • Drater says:

        Melisa – actually renting gives you more control if/when you decide to move. I’ve sold a couple of homes and it’s not cheap or easy…happily renting now.

        Would you rather be a renter or owner in the flooded parts of Carolina? Rebuild and deal with insurance companies and contractors (or) pack up and wish your landlord the best of luck?

      • Paulo says:

        Two houses from me a renter is freaking out. His landlord is an absolute a##hole, and has decided to sell. The tenant, who is an excellent tenant and neighbour by the way, has been subjected to tirades and verbal abuse about how he keeps the place, etc. The rest of the neighbourhood loves this couple and appreciate his gardening, lawncutting, no trash around, etc. The landlord is a bully and also has Small Man’s Disease….he has behaved this way for the last 4 tenants. When someone is under his thumb he likes to make them squirm.

        Anyway, he is listing the place. The tenant is freaking out and is madly trying to find another place to move to. His wife is very ill and has recently been rushed to the hospital by ambulance. Now, both in their 60’s, the tenant is looking around to buy something. Unfortunately, he missed that boat 5-10 years ago. He can no longer afford even the cheapest place and rents are also higher these days.

        Buy/Rent/Invest. Being in control of one’s life. How much control do tenants actually have?. Okay, if you live in a fifth wheel hooked up to a truck or in a Van by the River:-), you are in control. If there are lots of rentals and variable inventory, great. But if you are a renting and would like to remain in what you consider to be your home, guess what? It. Isn’t. Your. Home. And, it never was.

        That is the foundational reason people buy; a need for a secure home. Appreciation is a bonus. We all define freedom differently. For me, living under someone elses dictates is not freedom.

        • Petunia says:

          If you rent a single family home, you will always be subjected to eviction from the landlord. If you rent an apt, even if they sell the building, the next landlord will still need a tenant. If you rent and want stability, rent an apt in a larger building.

    • John Taylor says:

      Home ownership was a godsend for the boomers, living through a time of reducing interest rates and affordable housing.

      Right now home ownership is a terrible investment. The prices are so out of whack compared to incomes that you end up locked into paying 2/3 to 3/4 of your income to own a small condo. You can’t afford to save, you can’t afford a financial shock, and any job insecurity will quickly remind you that the bank owns the house and you own nothing. I know a few people who managed to buy homes a few years back, but they aren’t in a happy position despite the equity boost … they are what we call house-poor, overly nervous about making ends meet and building up credit card debt when any minor emergency pulls up (car trouble, dental, house repair, etc.)

      Add to that the fact that boomers with fat public pensions will be retiring, and higher property taxes will be a very likely source of to pay for that entitlement in 10 years time. Then there’s the headwind on house prices of rising interest rates (assuming we don’t follow the forever zero-rate path of Japan), and you can’t just assume prices will rise forever.

      The biggest reason Millennials flock to high-rent cities though is simply because that’s where the jobs are. I don’t like LA and I get the heck out every weekend, but meanwhile I rent my overpriced granny-flat (cheaper than a studio apartment at least).

      Telecommuting is mostly a dead idea – jobs that can be done remotely are simply outsourced. The economy is consolidated into few large companies rather than many small ones, further concentrating jobs into big cities. I know plenty of people who have quit jobs here to try to keep jobs in lower-cost places like Palmdale, Lancaster, Hemet, etc. but they don’t last … the only halfway decent paying jobs that are somewhat reliable are in the big city, it’s as simple as that.

      I still hope to raise a family some day, though I’m almost 40. I’d been putting it off for so long because I wanted to get in a semi-stable situation first, at least having a stable job in a stable location. Modern life requires many tough trade-offs.

      • Jos Oskam says:

        I fully agree that house prices in popular locations are getting way out of hand. That is also the case in Europe where I live. And I can imagine your conundrum.

        The thing is of course that rents are not set in a vacuum. If house prices go over the top someplace, rents soon follow. Simply because anyone becoming owner of rental property -be it a private person or some mega-investor- wants to see a return on this enormous investment. So what I see around me as that over time, in the most popular places it becomes almost as impossible to rent as it is to buy.

        This development even has its effect on all kinds of small business activities. Take for example this old couple running a campsite near the seaside. When they retire and sell the business, the price of the property alone has become so terrifyingly high that any successor can never recoup his investment by simply running a campsite. So, this site is gobbles up by some developer who build a condominium there. Campsite gone and another hideous building spoiling the coastline. The same thing can be witnessed in cities, where small established operations just disappear when the original owners retire and sell.

        So, while I agree that property at this moment is a terrible investment, I have this feeling that paying ridiculous rents every month might be even more terrible. But that might be explained by my old-fashioned upbringing in a time when not everything was financialized and savings were considered more worthy than debts.

        The times sure are a-changing…

        • Joe Harrison says:

          House prices have rocketed in Europe and elsewhere because borrowing money is almost free. Want to outbid the next guy to buy that house? No problem! Just borrow some more.

          Rents don’t work that way and as soon as rents hit the limit of what renters can afford from salary then they stop increasing. So there is no direct implication that rising house prices make for rising rents. Where I live (UK) prices are flat and rents are declining.

      • Petunia says:

        I’m a boomer and home ownership wrecked my finances. I always put down at least 20% and never made a dime on owning a home. Timing is everything in real estate and if you get sick or lose a job, your ability to make a profit on a house can/will disappear.

        • Anon1970 says:

          Timing is not everything. You forgot location. And politics. Rent control and Proposition 13 (in California) have encouraged many baby boomers to stay put much longer than they might have otherwise. Both were designed to protect existing residents/owners rather than newcomers.

      • Jason Boxman says:

        That’s what brought me to Boston, the huge expanse of jobs available. I don’t need a car, I can walk virtually everywhere I care to go or take the MBTA, and we have seasons. With housing prices what they are, I could never afford to live anywhere near the city if I wanted to buy. Not realistic.

        If I need a car to commute 60 minutes into work every day from a house, I might as well buy a house in the research triangle in NC or elsewhere and have a less horrendous commute than in Boston.

    • JoAnn Leichliter says:

      Except serfs had more time off.

    • JoAnn Leichliter says:

      You are right, Jos. But remember that, in general, Millenials know very little about history. So I guess they will learn the hard way.

    • AlexX says:

      But who ‘owns’? Very few, outside the big banks. When you ‘buy’ by taking out a mortgage you own nothing but a massive liability with collateral on it you get to live in. This is true for the majority of landlords as well. Banks own.

  6. Lt says:

    As they have families and children are ready for school, they’ll want the same things their parents wanted…a backyard, a neighborhood to play in and good schools. That’s most likely in the burbs.

    • Petedivine says:

      Millineals won’t have families like the boomer generation. Serfs and the rentier class can’t afford them. Today’s young men and women find their world increasingly online for a reason. It’s today’s version of bread and circuses. Wealth has become concentrated with the few and the vast majority are impoverished with heavy taxes and debt. History is packed with similar examples and they don’t end well.

      • rhodium says:

        Population growth is mostly occurring in Central American ethnic groups that have immigrated to the U.S. they’ve pushed down wages in laborer type jobs partly because to them the lifestyle is still way better than where they came from, $13 an hour to frame and pour concrete (and of course plenty of other jobs not necessarily even construction related) is a blessing. White millennials who grew up in middle class homes may very well want a nice house like their parents perhaps if they enjoyed their childhood but many have found they just can’t make it work, college degree or not. The alternative to holding onto whatever expectations they had about lifestyle as an adult by living in their parent’s basement and saving money (assuming of course they aren’t spending it all anyway if the pay is still too meager) just to spend it all and enjoy what you can. Kids may not fit in with this lifestyle. If what it takes is foregoing all luxuries and living in multigenerational households, many say well that’s not the dream I grew up believing in, that sounds more like a third world country. If you have only one life to live many do not feel the need to procreate as much as they do enjoying their few years of life on Earth. Of course a family can bring a different kind of happiness but with all the divorced, dysfunctional and broken families in our society it’s no wonder to me that many people do not see the benefit in bothering trying to start their own when they can hardly afford it anyway. In the future without some major economic growth it’ll be the children and grandchildren of immigrant families deciding what it means to be American.

    • two cents says:

      If we millenials are concentrated together and rapidly transforming areas we won’t need to leave to find goos schools. The schools will become good. We don’t need our own backyard space. We prefer communal spaces like parks we can walk to as a family. Sure there will always be the people who don’t like living in a hive, but millenials are far more interconnected and community focused than previous generations.

  7. IGW says:

    I sort of miss Crysangle who had some relevant things to say – like most of the intelligent & insightful posters here; it’s why I lurk, as much for comments as content.

    So I hope Crysangle returns. And Wolf, should I ever get close to your 5% ‘overdoing it’ mark, don’t hesitate to let me know. A private pm would be nice..

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Crysangle is welcome to post. I like his comments too.

      BTW, I don’t count posts and figure percentages. You’d have to go over the 5% in a big way for me to even notice, and you’d have to do it over and over again. This is a guideline to prevent one commenter from dominating every discussion.

    • Crysangle says:

      Thanks IGW. I am making efforts to remain part of the 5% and so avoid being cast for eternity into into the lurky shadows.

      I understand Wolf keeping the conversation varied, and I also know that single commentators can be very disruptive to the flow, but I don’t have the habit of hijacking other people’s conversations etc. either, and it is against my nature not to continue a debate or not speak my mind once participating. Difficult for me because it feels like I am starting with one hand tied now…which I don’t like. I’ll just have to strike harder but less often with the other I suppose… difficult for Wolf too because he has to keep the show presentable as a whole…and it is his stage. Oh well, such is life.

  8. Kenny Logoffs says:

    At the end of ‘Friends’, Monica and Chandler move from their handy inner-city apartmemt to the suburbs to start a family.

    But they were both in good jobs and could afford to.

    I think the important question to ask is what happens to the USA debt problem and economic growth when everyone stalls having a family because of poor and inappropriate housing availability.

    Shrinking populations sign bad times ahead, and a USA in bad times will even put off imported debt consumers (immigrants), so there will be no help there.

  9. Silly Me says:

    It’s in the air like there is no tomorrow.

    You have to work close to the place that pays you well. Eventually, once you burn out or get replaced by younger and cheaper workers, you can start pondering if it was worth working 24/7 for 120 grand, much of which went towards rent and taxes, instead of owning your house in rural Tennessee, paying next to nothing in real-estate taxes, working four hours a day self-employed, deducting your expenses from taxes, and having more dispensable income than before, despite making only $35-40/year…

  10. raxadian says:

    That’s because even if you got ten of them together, they don’t have the money to buy houses.

    Maybe it would be different if working from home wasn’t dying because companies want they overpriced buildings to be full of employees.

  11. Sneaky Pete says:

    From what I can see, a very screwy generation indeed. But they are the children of baby boomers so that explains a lot.

  12. Petunia says:

    I live in a small southern city with a millennial at home. If millennials don’t drink and don’t like football, there is nothing for them to do. Here they all dream of moving to Brooklyn, Nashville, or Austin.

  13. BostotheBay says:


    Damn….Millennials are turning 40 they better move on with their lives.

    This country is going to be a complete train wreck when the Millennials currently in their 20s are in their 50s making decisions.

    I predict their kids will be the next great generation cleaning up after the mess.

    This of course assumes they have kids. LoL

    • raxadian says:

      Is easy to play the bkane game. But you know they earn way less that their parents did, right?

      Go to the Gyardian website and search “gig economy” then we talk.

    • Mean Chicken says:

      Multiple families, low morals and hypocritical.

    • Anthony says:

      The country isn’t a complete trainwreck already because of decisions made by boomers? And a younger generation of more educated, more connected and more compassionate people will only make it worse? I beg to differ. Hopefully my generation can counteract the last 3 decades of banking scandals, market manipulation and recessions simply by eschewing the status quo of previous generations. And maybe by the time we’re in our 50s, these real estate market and cost-of-living hardships will be a thing of the past…

  14. Kevin says:

    I’d be willing to bet that (at least) a third of the millennials shown living in El Paso are military or Federal employees associated with Ft Bliss.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      For this reasons, ZIP codes with an overlapping military base are excluded. Somewhat more distant ZIP codes that don’t overlap the base are not excluded and could house some military personnel.

    • Ripp says:

      Possible since that zip code runs right along the 375 loop that goes directly to base. That’s also where most of the newer development is happening. Doubt many younger people want to live downtown since it’s overpriced and within walking distance of Juárez, Mexico. I’m sure the huge influx from Juárez over the last decade or so had a lot to do with that current number too.

  15. RangerOne says:

    My parents own a reasonably large lot in South Park right next to North Park. Similar gentrefying vibe but it was always a pretty nice neighborhood with families or professionals. Bought the home for $80k I. The 70s. Added on about $150k worth of changes. Place would sell for $800k to $1mill now….

    Their yearly tax is about as much as their property tax….

    I don’t see any reason to ever sell that home. We are all better off renting it out.

  16. TCG says:

    Interesting lists. In SF, I live near Glen Park and I believe the increase in millennials there has to do with the transit options (Bart, stop for every tech bus and near a freeway) and the fact that it was a nice, but slightly more “affordable” area (if you had the right jobs) until 4 or 5 years ago and it’s still more affordable or at least you might get a little bit more for the money than some other neighborhoods on reasonable transit.

    Also, some housing has opened up as prices rose and older folks have sold and left because of aging or to lock in their price gains and get out of the rat race and deteriorating lifestyle here. It’s more single family homes than condos or apartment buildings and I see a lot of younger families with young children (like toddler ages), some being cared for by nannies.

    It probaby defies some of the stereotypes about millennials since there are more people in the upper end of the millennial range, many of them have likely bought rather than renting (many of the sales on our street have been to 30 to 40 year olds) and they’re often having children and living in houses rather than apartments or condos and seem to want to stay in a residential area in the city instead of moving to a suburb with the young kids.

    The Mission and South Beach/Mission Bay with larger numbers or percentages of them fit the stereotypes better with luxury condos, more rentals, more chouces of walkable things such as many places to go eat out every night, clubs and generally live the trendy millennial “urban dream.”

  17. The trend is the same in Toronto, Canada but the reason is no millennials can afford car insurance. So no millennials or next to none are buying cars in the greater Toronto area. At $5,000 plus for first time drivers the only first time drivers are the Chinese.

  18. L Lavery says:

    I wonder how many millennials own bitcoin?

    BTW, BTFD.

  19. Trojanman says:

    I’m gen x/millennial (born 1980, which is usually the oldest of millennials, not sure where 77 came from that’s gen x but same difference in that range). My wife is also millennial and we make an assload of money living in SF. We delayed a home to pay off $190k in debt and now that we’ve done that we’ve saved a big down payment and plan to vulture swoop when the market crashes. It’s pretty clear we’ve been screwed by fed policy to save the boomers greasiest generation ever excesses, but we know that things will move in cycles and our time will be coming. When the boomers really start retiring and moving out of California, with rising rates, housing is going to tank and I may just be an all cash purchaser. Actually can’t wait for the stock market to dump and maybe send some of these Midwesterners crawling back home to mommy.

    • Mean Chicken says:

      An attitude that demands admiration.

    • Lt says:

      Hate to break it to you but those boomers in California ain’t moving….low rate mortgage + low prop 13 taxes makes selling unappealing.

      • John Taylor says:

        I see a lot of suburbs aging like that actually. My mother is about 72 and owns a very nice home which my 3 siblings and I often visit. I love house projects so I go there a lot of weekends and fix things up – next big one is tiling the old cracked concrete patio and extending it with mathching sand-set pavers (I work in tile so I can get hefty discounts). She also lives close to the beach- only a 30 minute drive- so it’s a great weekend stopover for the whole family.

        She lives downstairs and doesn’t plan on moving ever. She has plenty of friends doing the same thing – even the couples (one of each case) dealing with a spouse that has parkensens or Alzheimer’s setting in.

        There are some families with young kids in these neighborhoods – like my friend who got a free house in Seal Beach when he got married – but really only a few per block.

  20. BradK says:

    A few commenters above were discussing the control Vs. flexibility of home ownership Vs. renting, though none really touched on the correlation to the modern job market. Back in the boomer days lifetime employment with an established company was more or less a given. You got a job out of college, or apprenticed your way into a solid blue collar occupation, and could reasonably expect to keep that job — or at least the career — until retirement. Buying a house and staying put for decades made sense.

    The reality of today’s employer Vs. employee is much more ephemeral, as are many career paths in general. Neither regard the other as much more than a disposable resource, making the long term (and inflexible) act of home purchasing much less attractive or even viable. Renting offers the ability to pick and move along with employment transitions, which can occur yearly or more. The new gig economy can only help to exacerbate this trend.

  21. Ambrose Bierce says:

    Doesn’t history show a pattern of forced mass migrations from urban centers to the countryside when the population of a city turns into rootless parasites?

  22. Gian says:

    My generation grew up donning long hair and tattered jeans. Drugs, sex and rock and roll were the order of the day. Hippie communes, van conversions and sleeping under the stars were preferred living quarters. Our parents and society believed the future was doomed as we protested and detested mainstream living. The transition from socialist to capitalist mindset was relatively swift and decisive (albeit there are still a number of burned out hippies spreading socialist propaganda). If history does indeed repeat itself, I suspect Millennials will someday shed their cocoon and spread their wings too.

    • Mean Chicken says:

      Sathington Willoughby

    • Crysangle says:

      …there is a reason boomers got labelled the most selfish generation ever, and it wasn’t vanilla capitalism that set them up for it.

  23. PNWGUY says:

    Seattle millennial here. Cohabitating with long term girlfriend. Order avocado on all my tacos, but I never order avocado toast because too many carbs, am I rite?

    The reason we rent near downtown is simple: great lifestyle, and there are still lots of good deals available for renters that take time to look. Plenty of landlords just want a good tenant to cover their mortgage that they took out 5+ years ago before house prices went crazy. There are precisely zero good deals available right now for home buyers.

    Combined, we make ~$400k/yr. I think that puts us in the top 5% of Seattle households in terms of income. Nowadays, that means we could buy a 3BR/2BA fixer near some coffee shops in a decent school district, or we can move way out to the ‘burbs. Either way, the math only works if we both keep our jobs and income levels for the next 30 years and limit our expenses so we can save for retirement. That’s not a good deal. That’s a bad deal.

    When/if house prices come back down to align with incomes, we might buy. If prices never come down, maybe we’ll move to a different city. But for now, we save half our income, and we walk to our local farmer’s market, Trader Joe’s, and fancy coffee shops every chance we get.

    • Mark says:

      Your story sounds very similar to mine. My long term girlfriend and I have a similar income to you guys, live in Seattle and rent. We live in an alright place and rent is maybe 10% of our pre-tax income. We save close to $200k per year in taxable and retirement accounts.

      I would like to buy a home, but I just can’t stomach the idea of putting $200-250k down for a $1-1.25M townhouse that’s going to likely depreciate significantly in the next 5 years. The amount of money going to a house payment, 70% of which will be interest, also makes me sick. Plus, all that money would be diverted from productive capital (my index fund portfolio) to lower rate of return housing.

      I’m still waiting out for the next recession to buy a home. I see plenty of dual income, house poor people in Seattle who’ve way over extended themselves getting in on the housing gold rush. Once the layoffs start, I expect plenty of forced sales – I’ll be ready.

  24. Escierto says:

    I am seeing this happen here in San Antonio along the Riverwalk near the Pearl and the Museum of Art and the Tobin Center. One after another several large modern apartment complexes have sprung up with high dollar rents. I used to wonder who was living in these places but now I know. It seems like every time I walk down there, another apartment complex is breaking ground. How can they find tenants for these thousands of units?

  25. Jason Boxman says:

    A great example I just today learned, unexpectedly my contract is ending in two weeks. If I owned a home, I’d be worse off than I am. I can move if necessary to find work, though I’m not sure I want to. Employment is more precarious than in the past. And my contracts come and go and have for years, as FTE positions in my field are rare. Poor planning I guess on my part. So saving for a down payment? Lol

    • rhodium says:

      Yeah and banks are far more reluctant to give mortgages to people who have variable income or are in a job with low security anyway. You’d need the 20 percent anyway even with the lower lending standards that many have been enjoying. Even for an average condo where I am it’s hard to save up the $60-70k necessary for that. It takes many many years of living in the basement to save that much, forget about it in most places if you’re already paying rent. People wonder why there’s gentrification though… If it isn’t because the area has “that small college town feel” it’s because the middle is struggling and crowding in with the bottom. Where do the displaced go?

  26. Millennial CaR Kid says:

    Odd millennial checking in here. I own 3 cars. The newest being an 07. In total I’ve spent less than $10k to acquire my vehicles. I do the majority of my own maintenance. The only debt I have is student loans. Currently renting and saving until the next downturn.

    I don’t plan on having any kids for a good while either.

  27. SimplyPut7 says:

    I have met many millennials obsessed with F.I.R.E. (financial independence retire early).

    Could it be they are renting in more expensive cities to make as much money as possible to save more money and not go into debt with a large mortgage on a home or have car loans (they walk, cycle or UBER everywhere). Then they can go travel and rent in cheap areas of the world when they have enough money to give up their day jobs, living off of 3% or 4% of the value of the portfolio to make sure it last for the rest of their lives?

  28. mkruger says:

    Two years ago at age 49 I sold my sub 200K home in lovely northern Vermont and moved to my current location 20 miles north of Boston. Here I rent a nice small condo which costs me about the same as it did to maintain my old home in Vermont. While there have certainly been negative trade offs, the main advantage is I doubled my income with the move. Now can afford nice vacations, and still max out my 401K, and stuff a fair amount away in savings every year. While I would love to move to the city and ditch the car, I think I’d be much worse off financially as my rent would double. The idea of living in the city and using public transportation appeals to me, but I’d probably do it someplace other than Boston (Denver, or Colorado Springs, sounds much nicer).

  29. R Davis says:

    It begs the question —> what are they – what makes them tick – these millennials ??

    I picture a group of homeless people gathered around a 44 gallon drum fireplace.

    Have the millennials – as the individual – lost something ?
    Have the millennials – as a group of people lost something ?
    And therefore they are seeking solace, a safe & warm place to sleep in a mass gathering / a swarm ?
    Or are they found & mankind is one step further in arriving at the finish line in “he ain’t heavy he’s my brother fashion” ?

    All this rent paying is good for the economy – yes ?

  30. Cliff says:

    Whew! Thank Heaven all those new Condos and Town Homes are coming online to be purchas…errr…I mean RENTED.

  31. eg says:

    I wonder what the Millenials will do with the massive wealth transfer that is coming their way with the eventual demise of their parents?

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