- The number of starter homes on the market sits at a 50-year low, per Freddie Mac data.
- It’s not good news for millennials, many of whom are first-time homebuyers fueling a housing boom.
- A housing expert recently told the WSJ that it’s creating a “Great American Land Rush.”
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Starter homes are running dry, and it’s a big pain for those who need them most – millennials.
The generation, which turns ages 25 to 40 this year, has reached peak age for first-time homeownership. More millennials became homeowners than any other generation in 2020, driving a yearlong housing boom.
But this increased demand from millennials in an era of remote work, coupled with a lumber shortage and the fact that contractors have been underbuilding over the past dozen years, has exacerbated a shrinking housing inventory, with record-high prices for remaining houses.
As bidding wars rife with all-cash offers and higher down payments heat up the market, many millennials face the second housing crisis of their adulthoods.
There have been 20 times fewer homes built in the past decade than in any decade as far back as the 1960s, Daryl Fairweather, chief economist at Redfin, previously told Insider. Data from Freddie Mac shows that the housing shortfall has led to a decline in entry-level homes – the ones most affordable for millennials.
Freddie Mac defines an entry-level home as one under 1,400 square feet. Its data reveals that the current supply sits at a 50-year low. In the late 1970s, about 418,000 entry-level homes were built on average per year. In 2020, only 65,000 entry-level homes were built, even though 2.38 million first-time homebuyers purchased a home that year.
“There just aren’t enough of these homes to fulfill the demand,” Ed Pinto, director of the American Enterprise Institute, recently told The Wall Street Journal. “It’s creating this ‘Great American Land Rush,’ as I call it. People are moving around and there’s tremendous demand, but the inventory is down.”
The fall of the starter home
Housing was largely an out-of-reach dream for millennials for years. Even before the pandemic, they were struggling to take advantage of historically low mortgage rates as soaring living costs, student debt, and the fallout of the Great Recession made saving up for a down payment difficult.
They were already contending with a dwindling starter home supply back then.
In 2018, starter homes represented just 20.9% of available housing inventory in the US, according to Trulia. And a Realtor.com report at the end of 2019 predicted that while low interest rates would make it easier for millennials to buy, a shortage of entry-level homes would prove to be a major obstacle, largely because newbuilds that year were mostly devoted to “upper-tier housing” that cost at least $500,000.
Real-estate investors were only making the problem worse. In 2018, they bought roughly 20% of US starter homes – twice as many as they did 20 years ago, The New York Times reported, citing real-estate data provider CoreLogic.
Now, the pandemic and its consequent recession have added fuel to the fire just as millennials were finally recovering from their accumulated economic woes. “Now that they have economically recovered and are looking to buy a home for the first time, we’re faced with this housing shortage,” Fairweather told Insider. “They’re already boxed out of the housing market.”
Are you a millennial feeling shut out of the housing market? Email this reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.