How Millennials Are Changing the Housing Market

They're opting for digital searches, deluxe homes, and the suburbs

The economic recovery over the past decade has been good for many Americans, and one of the effects of this is a surge in home buying among Millennials. Those in their late 20s and early 30s, in particular, are leading the charge, with homeownership rates among these groups up to two to four times higher than other age groups during the years 2014–2016, according to Fannie Mae.

 "There's been an influx of millennial home buyers as older Millennials have had some time to grow in their careers and pay off student loan debt," says Stuart Eisenberg, national director of real estate and construction practice for accounting firm BDO USA. Younger Millennials, meanwhile, more often rent as they begin their careers, but according to Eisenberg, the generational shift in home buying is just getting underway.

"Expect more disruption in the next five years as millennial home buying accelerates," Eisenberg adds.

As Millennials enter the housing market in greater numbers, they're approaching it in a much different way than previous generations of home buyers.

Key Takeaways

  • A generational shift in home buying is underway, with Millennials finally beginning to purchase residential real estate.
  • Technology plays a big part in millennial house-hunting, with this generation turning to mobile devices to search, view properties, and communicate with real estate agents.
  • Millennials are eschewing starter homes in favor of larger or more upscale properties, where they tend to buy in the suburbs instead of more costly urban areas.

Tech-Oriented House-Hunting

Millennials are dedicated to their devices, and for this demographic group, technology plays a central role in home buying. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), a full 99% of Millennials search online to get general-purpose information about the housing market and home buying.

Millennials are also around twice as likely to use their mobile devices in their search than older baby boomers, with 58% of Millennials finding the place they want to buy via their smartphone or tablet. According to the NAR, that's directly affecting the way real estate agents and brokers approach their role in the buying process.

"Digital advances have transformed how real estate is done," says Kim Howard, a real estate agent and co-founder of Howard Homes Chicago. "Twenty years ago, real estate agents were valued for information. Now, the true value of a real estate agent is through their negotiation skills, relationships with other brokers, and their ability to keep up with the times with marketing strategies and processes."


The percentage of homebuyers comprised of Millennial and Gen-Y buyers.

Communicating With Realtors

Millennials also differ from previous generations in terms of how they use tech to communicate with realtors. "They prefer the majority of communication to be via text message," says Jill Hussar, a broker-owner at Hussar Real Estate in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.

Hussar reports that Millennials use text messages to express interest in a property, schedule appointments, and ask questions, while phone calls are usually reserved only for more urgent or pressing concerns. Texting represents the most immediate back-and-forth line of communication.

NAR research suggests that agents are adapting to this demand for electronic communication, with 90% of agents communicating via text and 94% using email. Another 34% chat with clients through instant messaging.

Another digital impact is in how agents list homes. Hussar says that tech-savvy Millennials are leading agents and brokers to introduce features like live streaming and video in lieu of traditional photographs.

"Videos give the audience a broader view of the property, communication, and location," Hussar says, helping agents get in front of potential buyers (and in particular, Millennials).

In Demand: Deluxe Homes and Suburban Locales

Millennials want homes, but they do not want just any old home. They are increasingly skipping the starter home in favor of immediately going for something bigger and more expensive. Roughly 45% of homebuyers aged 30 to 39 paid $300,000 or more for a home, according to the latest figures from NAR.

And almost half of Millennial homeowners—47%—prefer to live in the suburbs as opposed to the big city or rural areas, online real estate company Zillow reports.

Impact of Increasing Incomes

The desire for more deluxe digs reflects, in part, Millennials' delay in entering the housing market. They have waited longer for a home of their own, and now they want a place where they can stay for a good long time. They can also finally afford it: college-educated Millennials had median annual earnings of $56,000 in 2018, which was roughly equal to college-educated Generation X workers in 2001. What's more, they had median household income of $71,400 in 2018, compared with $70,700 for Generation X households in 2001.

A 2017 report from Paychex and IHS Market notes that those working in professional sectors earn an average hourly wage of $26.05, which is $5 per hour more than the typical millennial worker.

As a result, they're positioned to afford larger, more expensive homes versus a smaller fixer-upper. "Millennials typically want less hassle," says Kim Howard, "so move-in ready properties are in high demand."

The Bottom Line

Millennials have left a lasting impression on the housing market, and more changes may be on the way as this next generation of home buyers enters the fray. Focusing on the positive impacts created by Millennials is key to keeping that evolution in perspective. An emphasis on technology, for example, may result in a streamlined, more efficient home buying process. And more Millennials moving to the suburbs could help balance out the effects of rising housing prices in urban areas.

"The market will adapt and go through changes as it always does," Howard says, "and that just means a different market, not necessarily a bad one."

Mortgage lending discrimination is illegal. If you think you've been discriminated against based on race, religion, sex, marital status, use of public assistance, national origin, disability, or age, there are steps you can take. One such step is to file a report to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Fannie Mae. "The Awakening of Millennial Homeownership Demand." Accessed Feb. 21, 2021.

  2. National Association of Realtors. "Real Estate in a Digital Age 2017 Report," Pages 7, 9 and 15. Accessed Feb. 21, 2021.

  3. National Association of Realtors. "2020 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report," Pages 7 and 41. Accessed Feb. 21, 2021.

  4. Zillow. "Millennials Drive the Housing Market, and More Surprises From New Zillow Research." Accessed Feb. 21, 2021.

  5. Pew Research Center. "Millennial life: How young adulthood today compares with prior generations." Accessed Feb. 21, 2021.

  6. Paychex. "The Rise of the Millennial Employee: A Paychex - IHS Markit Small Business Employment Watch Special Report," Page 7. Accessed Feb. 21, 2021.

  7. Federal Trade Commission. "Mortgage Discrimination." Accessed Feb. 21, 2021.