Millennials Join the House Hunt

Smiling couple leaning on boxes in new home

by Hadley Malcolm, CNBC.com

A low credit score thwarted Marie Kapelke and her husband Mike Biethan’s plans to try to buy a house early last year.

When the couple, both 26, met with a mortgage specialist in December 2013, they found out Biethan would need to improve his score in order for them to get pre-approved for a mortgage. In fact, neither of them knew their credit scores before meeting with the banker, but they were ready to buy their first home after living in Seattle for about six years.

“We found out, OK your credit score really affects your interest rate,” Kapelke says. Biethan worked to improve his score over the past year, and the two revisited homeownership in the fall. They closed on a townhouse in West Seattle last month.

With rents rising into unaffordable territory, housing inventory up and mortgage rates hovering below 4%, 2015 may prove to be the year of homeownership for millions of Millennials. Real estate website Zillowpredicts Millennials will overcome Gen X as the largest group of home buyers this year — more than half of 18- to 34-year-olds said they plan to buy a house in the next one to five years, according to a survey by Zillow last summer.

But after putting away enough savings, the biggest hurdle for Millennial buyers may be the learning curve that comes with understanding the process, as well as a host of new financial terms, trade-offs and commitments to consider.

It’s a stressful process, especially when you’ve never done it before, recent first-time Millennial buyers say. Kenny Coleman, 25, bought his first place — a loft-style apartment in Cincinnati — in December. He says the first bank he went to for a mortgage wasn’t good at explaining the financing process to a first-timer. “They used all this jargon,” he says. “And they’re talking about all these different insurances.” Coleman, who says the process took him from “complete idiot to pretty well versed” in a matter of weeks, ultimately went to a different bank that was willing to give him a fixed-rate mortgage instead of an adjustable-rate mortgage.

Heading into the popular spring selling season, some real estate companies say they’re already seeing interest spike from new buyers. Listings for townhouses and starter homes have seen more traffic in the past month on john greene Realtor’s website, says Scott Parker, vice president and sales manager.

“There are Millennials on the sidelines that when we provide the right supply on the market are going to be very curious and interested in buying,” he says.

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