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Gen Z Homebuying Havens: Cities Where Young Americans Stand a Chance of Owning a Home

As the youngest cohort leans more toward a simpler life off-coast, cities like Fort Wayne, IN, & Corpus Christi, TX, provide a window of opportunity for Gen Z hoping to buy.

by Alexandra Ciuntu
7.4K views
6 min. read
  • Cities in the Midwest and the South, spearheaded by Fort Wayne, IN, and Corpus Christi, TX, make up the majority of the top 10 large cities where homeownership could be more achievable for Gen Z.
  • More cities in these regions, like Laredo, TX, Memphis, TN, Lincoln, NE, and Durham, NC, put homeownership more within reach of young people, mostly due to home price-to-income ratios, convenient number of days on the market, and lower unemployment rates among adults under 25.
  • About 1 in 3 Gen Z members residing in North Las Vegas, NV, and Chesapeake, VA, own their home, leading to the highest young homeownership rates among the country’s major cities.
  • California dreamin’ does not extend to the dream of homeownership: Young people in Fremont, San Diego, and San Jose stand little to no chance of buying.

The number of Generation Z members is estimated at 69.58 million, or about 21% of the U.S. population.  Born between 1997 and 2012, they’re already making their mark on American society. And these up-and-comers are looking for a place to call their own where they make a difference. But where?

Moving out and getting your own place has never been easy. However, this is painfully true for America’s youngest, who have already faced a pandemic, crippling inflation, historically high mortgage rates and an overall turbulent economy. The most recent Census data shows that the share of Gen Z householders (adults younger than 25) who own their home is less than 17%. Naturally, despite market hurdles, this percentage is only expected to continue to grow, just like the demographic itself.

Yet, only a few young adults dare to dream of homeownership — and even fewer actually get the opportunity to do so. That’s because, on top of the high mortgage rates and equally high home prices that define the modern U.S. housing market, many young people aspiring to buy must also face entry-level incomes, unemployment, and scarce housing options to boot. Even so, not all hope is lost.

To assess the feasibility of Gen Z homeownership in the country’s 100 major cities (including the five New York City boroughs), Point2 ranked them based on seven metrics:

  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio – to see how many household incomes (where the householder is under 25) would be needed to reach the median home price in a market
  • Median Sale Price Difference – to understand how home 2023 prices are more impactful compared to 2022
  • Inventory (per 10,000 residents) – to evaluate how many housing options are available
  • Share of Homes Sold Above Listing Price – to assess bidding wars and competitivity in a market
  • Days on Market – to determine how quickly homes fly off the market and measure competitivity
  • Homeownership Rate – to assess the real probability of adults under 25 achieving homeownership
  • Unemployment Rate – to see where young adults have lower chances of financing homeownership

We then used weighted averages of these metrics to calculate where young adults under 25 have the best chances of becoming homeowners. As it turns out, major cities in the South and the Midwest might have what it takes to help Gen Z start putting down roots.

 

America’s Youngest Homebuyers Stand a Better Chance in the South & Midwest

Although still new in the housing market, Gen Z’s homebuying patterns already diverge from those of older generations due to their unique lived experiences. Growing up during a global crisis, they have a heightened focus on wellbeing and going with whatever feels right. And for many, what feels right is having stability earlier in their lives compared to, say, millennials when they were the same age.

Student loans and the rising cost of living means that Gen Z inherited the affordability concern from millennials. So, when we factor in multiple metrics that might influence the attainability of homeownership for young people — such as household income among adults younger than 25 years old, Gen Z homeownership rate, and unemployment rate among this cohort — some cities emerge as homebuying pockets for America’s youngest.

 

First, Fort Wayne, IN, offers the highest chances of homeownership by ranking particularly high in terms of home price-to-income ratio and the unemployment rate among the younger segment of the population. Next up is Corpus Christi, TX, where homes cost about five times Gen Z’s median income, which propels it to the top of the list of cities that make homeownership a less-distant reality for youngsters.

Similarly, Gen Z would have the third-best chance of becoming homeowners in Detroit. Despite ranking in the bottom half in terms of youth unemployment rate and homes sold above listing price, the city compensates by having a 6.10% drop in home prices, the best home price-to-income ratio among all of the cities analyzed, and one of the highest homeownership rates among Gen Zers at 16.7%.

 

Gen Z Homeownership Close to Impossible in Big California Cities &… Lexington, KY

There have been increasing reports on how Gen Z leans toward a more simple life and refrains from putting down roots in expensive hubs like LA, for example. of course, this is just as well because homeownership in such a powerhouse city is a pipe dream nowadays.

There’s no love lost between America’s youngest potential homebuyers and Fremont, CA. Here, million-dollar home prices are almost 23 times the average young person’s household income, yet homes are flying off the market in just 10 days — often going above the listing price. To put it into perspective, the cost of living in this exclusive city is 77% higher than the national average. It’s no wonder that Fremont has the lowest percentage of Gen Z homeowners among all large cities analyzed.

Likewise, San Diego does not make things easier for young people looking for their place in the sun. The housing shortage has been an ongoing issue here — not that a young professional under 25 would have the means to buy in the city even if there were more homes for sale as sale prices approach the $1 million mark.

While Fremont and San Diego might not raise any eyebrows, homeownership being so out of reach for young people in Lexington, KY, just might. The city ranks third from the bottom, despite being a sought-after area with a median sale price less than the national average. A cocktail of scarce inventory, a high unemployment rate among under-25-year-olds, and median household income not even hitting $25,150 make homeownership difficult to attain for Gen Z.

Although some big hubs score low on multiple homeownership-related metrics, faltering on just one of the factors considered would be enough to push the homeownership dream further from young people. For instance, while having a steady job is crucial in applying for mortgages and loans, it doesn’t necessarily lead towards homeownership. Take Madison, WI, a city that enjoys one of the lowest unemployment rates among young people, yet it also displays one of the lowest homeownership shares within this segment of the population (3.6%). This case only reinforces that there’s no perfect haven for homebuyers, let alone young ones.

Let’s dive into three of the most compelling Gen Z housing markets: Texas, California, and New York City.

Texas Rundown

Of the 13 major Texas cities analyzed, three are among the top 10 where members of Gen Z would have a greater shot at becoming homeowners. Namely, Corpus Christi, Laredo, and Fort Worth tick many favorable boxes for young potential homebuyers, such as somewhat affordable home prices below $350,000 and not that many homes selling above the asking price.

Notably, Laredo is most unfamiliar with bidding wars: Data shows that the city had zero homes sold above the asking price, despite a tight inventory that would usually drive prices higher and higher.

 

 

Except for Plano (where the median home sale price saw a 12.6% hike), home prices in major Texas cities did not go haywire in 2023 compared to the previous year.

 

California Snapshot

Meanwhile, California’s red-hot housing market would land Gen Z in hot water. Specifically, 17 of the major cities considered in this report are in California — and all of them put hurdles on Gen Z’s way to homeownership.

Fresno scores the highest in the state, although it falls somewhere in the middle in the list of major U.S. cities where Gen Z would stand more of a chance at homeownership. In 2022, around 20% of young residents here own their home compared to 11% a year prior.  Fresno is also the only California city where home sale prices fell (by nearly 2.4%).

 

 

On the other hand, sale prices in Riverside rose by almost 10%. Riverside joins Fremont, San Diego, and San Jose at the very bottom of the list. All of these cities display low homeownership rates among Gen Z, higher unemployment rates among the younger demographic, limited housing inventory, and growing sale prices.

When it comes to home price-to-income ratio, major cities in the Golden State find themselves at the bottom once again. For instance, homes in Irvine cost almost 33 times Gen Z’s median income, while properties in San Diego and Fremont are listed for 23 times that. Although not ideal, homes in Fresno, Stockton, and Chula Vista go for almost 9 times the equivalent of what Gen Z members make, on average.

New York City Spotlight

Homeownership is a distant reality for most people in NYC, even more so if they are younger than 25. And the boroughs form an accurate depiction of how hard it is for young people to chase homeownership in hip, vibrant places. Not only is lack of living space a plague in New York City, but most of the factors that could contribute to making ownership a dream come true are not in Gen Z’s favor. Simply put, if it’s not one thing, then it’s another.

 

Many homebuyers, regardless of age, don’t dare to dream of Manhattan. The $1,125,000 median sale price has a lot to do with it, but on the (bare minimum) bright side, just around 2% of homes here went above the asking price.

Beyond huge prices, inventory is one of the main issues in the boroughs, given the high population. Despite Manhattan having more than 7,800 active listings (more than Houston and Los Angeles), the high population ratio results in just 37 homes for sale per 10,000 people. In the Bronx, this number drops to just eight homes. But what makes the Bronx stand out is that it’s one of the few places where the median sale price dropped significantly in 2023 compared to 2022 — by almost 13% or $47,500 less.

Finally, Queens and Staten Island fall somewhere in the middle when it comes to most metrics. However, Staten Island displays one of the most significant shares of Gen Z homeowners on the list with more than 26%.

Complete Ranking of 100 Largest U.S. Cities

To find out where Gen Z potential homeowners might have it easier, check out the 100 largest U.S. cities, including the NYC boroughs. Use the filters to rank the cities across six factors spanning year-over-year median sale price change; housing inventory per 10,000 residents; Gen Z homeownership rate; home price to income ratio; unemployment rate among Gen Z; days on market; and the share of homes sold above listing price.

 

 

Methodology

Point2, a division of Yardi Systems Inc., covers real estate trends and news. Point2 studies are based on internal data, public records, governmental sources, online research, and other reliable third-party agencies.

  • For this study, we considered the 100 largest markets in the United States by population based on 2021 Census Estimates. New York City was split into the five boroughs.
  • The study focuses on metrics sourced at city level. Sources include Redfin, Zillow, Realtor, PropertyShark, and Local MLSs.
  • To determine The Gen Z Homebuying Havens, the report uses a combination of ranking scores and weighted averages of the following metrics:
    • Home Price-to-Income Ratio
    • Y-o-Y Median Sale Price Change (percentage difference between Nov 2023 and Nov 2022)
    • Gen Z Homeownership Rate (owner-occupied units where the householder is under 25 years old out of total housing units occupied by under 25-year-olds)
    • Unemployment Rate for those under 25 years old
    • Inventory per 10,000 Residents
    • Share of Homes Sold Above Listing Price
    • Days on Market (DoM)
  • Data on Median Income, Unemployment Rate, and Homeownership Rate were sourced from Census, American Community Survey – 2022.
  • Home Price-to-Income Ratio was calculated based on median home price and household income where the householder is under 25 years old.
  • For relevancy, the Unemployment Rate was considered only for the 20-24-year-old Census group as the majority of the other young group of 16–19-year-olds is still in school.

 

Fair use and redistribution

We encourage and freely grant permission to reuse, host or repost this article. When doing so, we only ask that you kindly attribute the authors by linking to Point2Homes.com or this page, so that your readers can learn more about this project, the research behind it and its methodology.

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