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HERRIMAN — There's been plenty of data about millennials waiting to buy homes, or just giving up on the American dream of home ownership altogether. But one might be surprised to know the picture is quite different in Utah.
"It's a little scary taking on that payment," said first-time home buyer Paige Weston.
Days before moving into her very own townhome at the Anthem development in Herriman, Weston told KSL she was feeling "not bad overwhelmed, but a good underwhelmed."
At 24-years-old with a good job and savings, this millennial still wasn't sure if she was ready to buy. But, considering her options, she jumped right into the market.
"Rent right now, my mortgage will be less than rent, and so it just made sense to buy a house," Weston said.
And she is not alone. In the Salt Lake Valley, millennials ages 25 to 34 years old represented 38 percent of all new mortgages in 2016. The national average last year was 33 percent.
James Eastham is a realtor with Salt Lake's Realty One Group Signature and said of millennials, "They are a good chunk of the existing market right now and they want to buy."
In fact, according to Realtor.com, Salt Lake is currently the No. 1 market for millennial home buyers. Here are a few reasons why:
- 16 percent of the area's population falls into the millennial age group compared to 13 percent nationally
- At 3.4 percent, unemployment is lower than the U.S. average of 4.3 percent.
- Job growth in Utah is expected to go up by 2.5 percent over the next year and that's nearly double the national rate.
"A big part of it is that, finally, we are becoming the age or we have the financing in place that we can purchase homes," said millennial Megan Miller. She's a homeowner herself and she sells so-called "green" townhouses for local builder Garbett Homes.
Millennials are motivated by affordability and a desire to protect the environment according to Miller.
"We (Garbett Homes) build according to an energy code that's called 'zero energy ready' so everything that we put into the house has to also qualify for these energy savings," said Miller.
At age 33, today's first-time homebuyer is older than in the 1970s and '80s when the average buyer was around 29 years old. They are also often single and have to spend more money and time looking for a home due to current market conditions.
"There's just a shortage of housing. Period. Right now, whether it's apartments or new construction or existing homes being sold," Eastham said.
It is a seller's market and Eastham said there is also the threat of rising interest rates.
A big part of it is that, finally, we are becoming the age or we have the financing in place that we can purchase homes.
"If they don't get in now, the chances of home ownership might be out of reach for some people," he said.
That is why Eastham worked quickly to help his client Weston find her home at the right price. Still, Weston has a few first-time buyer jitters.
"It's just a lot of responsibility thinking about what could go wrong that will be on me to fix, so that's a little scary," she said.
But watching her very own place go up from a pile of wood to a completed structure has been pure joy for Weston. "That's what is most exciting," she said.
Turns out that the Salt Lake Valley is not the only area driving millennial home buying in Utah. According to a recent article in Business Insider, the Ogden-Clearfield area also tops in the nation for millennial home ownership. Over 50 percent of the millennials in those communities are home owners.