A growing share of homebuyers are millennials, and more of them are purchasing single-family homes outside of urban areas, according to the National Association of Realtors' (NAR) Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study, which evaluates the generational differences of recent home buyers and sellers.

The survey additionally found that although student loan debt is more prevalent among millennial buyers, they aren’t the generation with the largest student debt balances.

The share of millennials buying in an urban or central city area decreased to 17% (21% a year ago) in this year’s survey, and fewer of them (10%) purchased a multifamily home compared to a year ago (15%). Overall, the majority of buyers in all generations continue to purchase a single-family home in a suburban area, and the younger the buyer, the older the home they purchased.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said, while millennials may choose to live in an urban area as renters, the survey reveals that most aren’t staying once they’re ready to buy. “The median age of a millennial homebuyer is 30 years old, which typically is the time in life where one settles down to marry and raise a family. Even if an urban setting is where they’d like to buy their first home, the need for more space at an affordable price is for the most part pushing their search further out. Furthermore, limited inventory in millennials’ price range, minimal entry-level condo construction and affordability pressures make buying in the city extremely difficult for most young households.”

For the third straight year, the largest group of recent buyers were millennials, who composed 35% of all buyers (32% in 2014), more than the combined amount of younger and older boomers (31%). Generation X were 26% of buyers and the Silent Generation made up 9%.

According to Yun, student debt is likely impacting more than just the millennial generation’s ability to buy a home. “Whether it’s from financing their own education or borrowed for their children, it’s somewhat surprising to see a higher median amount of student debt among Gen X ($28,000) and younger boomer buyers ($29,100) compared to millennials ($25,000). One of the many reasons housing supply has been subdued in recent years may be because a segment of homeowners have decided to delay trading up or moving down in order to pay down their debt, including from student loans.”

This year’s survey found that the millennial generation’s desire to own a home of their own as the primary reason for their purchase is increasing, up to 48% (39% a year ago). The desire for a larger home was the highest among Gen X buyers (16% ), and older boomers (at 20%) were the most likely to buy because of retirement.

Nearly all buyers predominantly used the Internet and a real estate agent during the home search process.

“Supply shortages, strong competition and rising home prices in today’s market can make buying a home very stressful,” said Tom Salomone, president of NAR. “While the Internet is the initial go-to destination to search for available listings, consumers want the expertise and insights of a realtor to help them find the right home within their budget.”

Those more likely to be trading up (Gen X homeowners) or trading down (older boomers) represented the largest share of sellers in the past year, at 25% and 24%, respectively. Millennials, also likely to be move-up buyers, stayed in their home the shortest amount of time before selling (five years).

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