Fewer millennials are buying homes. More millennials are opting to rent, or faced with tight budgets, live at home with their parents.
But for those with the bucks for a down payment, the big question is, Where are they buying?
Their answers may surprise you.
According to a survey conducted by data and analytics firm CoreLogic, millennials—the ones in their 20s or early 30s now—are looking for places with lower than average home prices and ample job opportunities that pay a relatively good wage. That has kept most of them looking in the middle of the country and avoiding the two coasts where housing prices have been rising steadily in the recovery.
It also has made them focus on counties near metropolitan areas, according to the study, with more and often better-paying job opportunities and home price tags that make purchase possible for young workers.
The most popular metro area
The No. 1 place where millennials—those born between the early 1980s and the beginning of the new millennium—are buying homes is Utah, and specifically Utah County, the state’s second most populous county just south of Salt Lake City, and the county seen as the most attractive for prospective millennial homeowners in the U.S.
The county benefits, first, from affordable average home prices: Utah County has a median home value of around $229,600, according to Zillow, which is right around the national average as compiled by the U.S. Census.
Next, it’s also enjoying the fastest employment growth among the 342 largest U.S. counties, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, up by 6.7% in 2015 as the county added more jobs in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector.
Supporting this analysis, the study’s Top 10 counties, which also included suburban areas in and around Denver, Colorado, tended to have one metric in common: Millennial homebuyers were able to negotiate attractive front-end ratios on mortgages, a statistic that indicates the portion of a borrower’s income necessary to cover monthly mortgage payments. The percentage is calculated by dividing monthly housing expenses by gross income. It’s a sign that affordability and income are pivotal factors for millennials when it comes to where they buy a home, according to CoreLogic analyst Bret Fortenberry.
CoreLogic’s study analyzed more than 70 metrics associated with mortgage purchases by millennials and ranked all counties with a population greater than 200,000. Among the statistics included in the analysis: loan application data, mortgage interest rates in different counties, the number of foreclosures in the state, and the education level of its millennials.
While Utah is not always immediately associated with millennials, the state—with a median age of 30 years old—has the youngest population of the 50 states, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released last year. Millennials, many of whom living there now were born there and opted to stay to raise families, have been the largest generation in Utah since 2000, according to a study done by the Utah Foundation.
Based on that criteria, it’s not surprising that at the bottom of the CoreLogic list of counties are those in coastal states, such as California, Florida and Massachusetts, near expensive cities like San Francisco, Miami and Boston.
According to CoreLogic, the county that proved the least attractive to millennial homebuyers was Marin County in California, close to San Francisco and the tech boom that pushed median home prices to $970,000 in January of this year, up 6.5% over the same month a year before.