I Spy Millennials… and it’s Not in Cities

Millennials are settling down. 

But in which city or town?


Millennials are graduating college, working full-time jobs, and getting married.  On average, they are achieving these milestones at a slightly older age than their parents and previous generations. But as their lifestyles change, will their homes too?


I Spy Another Apartment.

If you live in a smaller city like me, it seems like there is a new apartment building going up everywhere I look. In college, I lived in one of the new and exciting apartments, which my parents claimed was even nicer than their homes. My apartment had all new appliances, walk-in closets, my own bathroom, and many other amenities, like free lattes, a gym, and a pool. Sounds great, right? It was, but I definitely paid for it.


Ironically, one of the reasons that millennials have not purchased homes in past years is high rents. According to Zillow, rent averages nearly 29% of the national median income, and even more than that in large cities. While going to school and working part-time, paying high rent makes saving money for a down payment on a home a difficult task. One analysis shared that baby boomers spent an average of $148,000 (adjusted for inflation) on rent before buying their first home. Today, millennials spend $202,000.


On top of high rents, many millennials have high student debt. According to new research from Ernst & Young, business majors are the least likely to have student debt, while humanities majors are more likely.


I Spy a Homeowner. 

In 1975, 51.9% of Americans ages 20 – 36 owned their own homes. Americans during this time were also getting married and starting families at a younger age compared to today.

According to the survey from Ernst & Young, 40% of millennials reported owning their own home in 2018. This is lower than the percent of all Americans 18 years and older (64%). However, as this generation grows older, the rate of millennial homeowners is rising. Just two years ago, 28.8% of millennials reported home ownership.


Millennials are today’s first-time homeowners. In the past, when looking for a place to call home, they were looking at large metropolitan cities. But as millennials turn another year older and begin purchasing homes and starting families, their idea of an ideal home is starting to change too.


I recently purchased my first home. I didn’t want to move back in with my Dad, but I didn’t want to keep paying rent. Fortunately, I am one of few of my friends who was able to leave school debt free and saved money for a down payment. My dad always said I would be thankful when he made me get my first job at 14, when all my friends didn’t have one. Of course, I hate to admit it, he was right.

The thing that surprised me most was that there were not a lot of homes in my price range. And a lot of the homes I looked at were older and needed a lot of work. Fortunately, I found an updated townhome, that costs me less than some of the one bedroom apartments I had been looking at. I was pretty lucky considering that it was only on the market one day and had multiple offers.


I Spy a Home Outside the City. 

Like myself, as millennials settle down, they are tending to choose areas that are more affordable. Oftentimes in rural or suburban settings. They value the safety, security, and of course the affordability. Some even choose to move back to their hometowns, as they want their children to have similar experiences to what they did.

According to the survey from Ernst & Young, millennials are more likely to buy homes in the suburbs than in the city. Today, 38% of millennials are choosing to live in suburbs compared to the 37% of millennials living in Cities.


There is an opportunity right now for suburbs and rural areas to capitalize on millennials looking for their first homes by marketing and specifically targeting them. These first time home buyers will be looking for affordable homes, but they also want access to amenities and things to do. Show them why your town is not only a great place to visit, work, and play, but also to make a home. Share authentic stories about what makes your community unique.


I Spy a Cooler Campaign. 

Being from Grand Forks, ND I know what it is like to live here. I also know that when you tell people that you live here they think you are crazy and wonder what do we do when it’s below zero! Fortunately, there’s lots to do. It’s always fun to tell people about ice fishing. Then they really think you’re crazy – that is until they try it.


Could you imagine being from Texas and being told that you needed to move to North Dakota for your job? You would have so many questions! The Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation (GFREDC) and partner entities saw this happening and realized there wasn’t a single information hub to find out what it is like to live in the region. They worked with AE2S Communications to develop the Greater Grand Forks: Way Cooler Than You Think Campaign.


One of the “cooler” things I have witnessed from this campaign happened during a Way Cooler Than You Think presentation by Becca Cruger, GFREDC Strategic Initiatives Coordinator. During the questions portion, someone in the back raised there hand and said that she had comment instead of a question. She said that she recently moved to the Grand Forks region from Colorado. She was looking for a job and initially didn’t think North Dakota was the place for her. But then she started to see #GFisCooler all over social media. After checking it out, she thought that she would give Grand Forks a chance. After all, she couldn’t believe all the people that were sharing how cool the region is. Today she is happy to call Grand Forks her home.


Millennials will continue to make small communities their homes. I am a millennial myself and recently just purchased my first home, but I know many communities have something special to offer millennials. They just need to find what that is and share it.