According to US Census data, 43% of millennials owned homes in 2020. Sure, this number lags behind homeownership rates of previous generations, but let's be honest — it's gotten a whole heck of a lot harder to buy a house.
A while back, millennials in the BuzzFeed Community who own their homes shared how they managed to get there, despite all the hurdles. And in the comments, people shared even more stories of luck, hardship, privilege, and hard work that ended in homeownership. Here's some of what they had to say:
1."I live in Hawaii, so housing is extremely expensive. I like to think I’m good with money, but we ended up getting a financial adviser to help us reach our financial goals. We had our car loans and my student loans ($32,000) to pay off. Our financial adviser coached us, emphasizing that you need to have a strong foundation before purchasing a home by having at least a $1,000 emergency fund, then paying off debt, then saving for four to six months of living expenses, and finally a 20% down payment for a home. It all seemed so impossible, especially in Hawaii, where the median home costs $1 million."
2."My husband and I lived at home with our parents until we were 31 and 33, saving. We looked for two years and eventually put 5% down and purchased well under our mortgage cap, buying a small two-bedroom house in the county north of where we preferred, in order to have lower taxes. My in-laws gifted us with the money to prepay the PMI (private mortgage insurance). A lot of our furniture is hand-me-downs, with the rest being bargain pieces. I have a lot of student debt and we live in a fairly expensive state, but we make it work."
"Having a smaller house also made learning how to manage a household a little easier, since we were both coming from living with parents. Honestly, we lucked out — we both enjoy our parents, and it really helped us save up money."
3."I bought my first home in 2018, 3% down. My state has a great down payment assistance program, but the interest rate for that was pretty high at the time. So I opted to pull from my 401(k) instead. Yes, experts will say not to do that, but for me, it made sense, and buying that house ended up being the best investment I've ever made."
"Also, I have student loans and other debts. You don't need 20% down, perfect credit, no debt, etc. It costs nothing to talk to a loan officer to see if you can qualify for a loan."
4."I had a big nest egg for a down payment courtesy of my grandparents, who saved it for me (I was the only grandchild until I was 16, and they're definitely in the upper-middle-class bracket). I bought a duplex, so the rent would pay most of the mortgage, and bought in late 2007 just before the recession hit (we're elder millennials/Xennials, '80 and '83). Only one of those things had anything to do with anything but luck/privilege."
5."Simple answer: When student loan payments got paused in March 2020, I saved every penny that I would have put toward student loans. In less than a year, I had bought a house. Do the math, lawmakers!"
6."My fiancé and I were finally able to buy a house in July 2020. It’s a townhouse in southeast Pennsylvania. We were repeatedly outbid during the home search process, and our Realtor (who was my mom’s Realtor through two different places) was an absolute bulldog for us. We didn’t have anywhere close to 20% down but found a lender that did not tack on PMI (a credit union). I had $79,000 in student loans after getting my master’s, and my fiancé had some credit card debt. We both stayed at home until we were in our 30s to save as much as possible."
"We are very lucky to have been able to stay at home, and I know that’s not a reality for everyone. My advice is similar to some of the other comments: Save, take advantage of programs where possible, be understanding of the difference between your dream and your budget, and be patient. There are some lenders that will help out with the down payment or closing costs if you take a homeowners class. Best wishes for all my fellow millennials (and Gen Z’ers) who are trying to make it out there; our parents don’t get how damn hard it is."
7."I live in the Kansas City metro area and bought my first home in 2018 for $200,000. I put 3% down, which amounted to about a $6,000 down payment. I saved that amount by putting away about $100 out of each paycheck, $2,600 a year. Do that for about two and a half years and you have your down payment. At the time, I was paying $1,300 in rent for a two-bedroom apartment, in grad school, had some credit card debt, and was working for a nonprofit."
8."Pure luck. I had the grades for my university to waive tuition fees. I still had some small loans, but they were way more manageable. Then I married a dude who had bought a house. He was in the military, saved up his pay for four years, and rarely splurged. Because he was a vet, his tuition was fully paid, so no student loans. We also live in a state with a low cost of living, which helps. We sold (to another ex-military person, funny enough) during the pandemic boom when we inherited a home. We both recognize that we worked hard but we also got lucky."
9."I blew a disk out in my lower back after working 18–20 hours a day, every day, for three weeks straight. It took about five years to settle a claim through workers' comp — and then I was able to use it to put a down payment on a house. I’m still in pain and am permanently disabled. I'd rather have my back than the house."
10."I used the money I got from my divorce and took advantage of the FHA mortgage program to buy half a duplex for my daughter and me. My rent went up yearly, and we kept having to move. I wanted a house so we could stay in one place for her and be more financially stable."
11."My husband and I left the New York area shortly after COVID hit, and lived with my dad for a year and worked remotely. My husband also took on a side job, and we saved everything (although we paid for all groceries and contributed monthly to the utilities). We paid off our credit card and most of our student loan debt. When we got the all clear from my job that I could work remotely indefinitely, we decided to move to a less expensive city and buy a house."
"My husband's job was located there, so they paid for the move and closing costs on the house. My in-laws gave us a very generous gift as well, by cashing in on a bond they had opened when my husband was a baby. Our parents' generosity and support allowed us to put 20% on our house, buy a car, and maintain a six-month emergency fund.
"Our mortgage is half of what we spent living in New York City/New Jersey, and we are finally able to live within our means. Our situation is part luck, part privilege, and part making good decisions at the right time."
12."Elder millennial here. Only child of a single mother. Inherited my first house in '02 when my mom died. Sold that one a few years later for one in a different state for work reasons. Market collapsed and had to do a deed-in-lieu when we had to make a sudden (less than a month) multistate move for my husband's job. It took six years, inheritances from three grandparents, and a VA loan (I'm a veteran) to be able to afford a house again in a decent area with decent schools, because now we have kids. So it's simple. You just have to be a veteran to get a VA loan and have your relatives die and leave you money."
13."How my boyfriend and I afforded our first home?? We saved...for 10 years."
14."I am a child of immigrants and came out of college and grad school with $43,000 in student loans while still working two jobs the whole time. Started working at a hospital and paying down loans right away after graduation and really budgeting to save. I live in a state with a low cost of living (but getting higher fast because everyone and their mother wants to move here now), and two years after graduation, I bought an 1,800-square-foot house for $120,000. Now that house is with $280,000."
"I’m still paying off the student loans, but my mortgage is less than half of what my friends are paying in rent."
15."I went to community college on a full honors scholarship, then was able to get an honors scholarship to a local four-year school. I worked retail while in college before getting a full-time job at a software company after graduation. I also worked evenings freelancing as a reporter, in addition to working weekends freelancing as a digital content creator. As a single, 24-year-old woman, I was able to use my savings and buy my first home."
"A good housing market (this was 2018) definitely helped! It was very scary at first (I sobbed my first night in my house, feeling so overwhelmed!), but looking back, doing it on my own has been one of my proudest accomplishments."
16."My sister and I inherited our grandparents' home in 2020, and then last year I bought my own home with trust money they left me. If my grandfather hadn't been really good with money and investing (plus, he built their home in the '60s), I wouldn't have either one. I am incredibly thankful for what my grandparents sacrificed, and I don't take it for granted. But if I were given the choice between keeping the money and homes versus not having either but getting my grandparents back, I'd choose the latter. I miss them immensely."
17."I used my VA loan (both my husband and I served in the Marines) and bought back in 2014, when the market was still soft. My mom died, and Dad moved in with us and pays part of the mortgage. We added an RV pad, rented it out to traveling nurses, and used the extra cash to build fencing and board horses/dogs. We sold, made $800,000, which we invested, and are currently renting while we figure out our move to Boquete, Panama. The plan is to live in Panama for 5–10 years so we can save $1 million, buy something else in the States whenever the market is more favorable, and retire in our 40s."
18."I ended up getting a house out of luck and circumstance. Mom wanted me to get out of the house and to get my own place (I was 27 and had just graduated from grad school, so that's fair, LOL). I thought I could only rent, and I had minimal savings and no clue about buying a home. Met a Realtor who was showing one of the condos. They told me about the first-time homebuyer program in Florida where they give you $15,000 to help with closing costs."
"I bought a condo for $101,000 in 2017, then sold it last spring for $150,000, which gave me enough profit for a down payment on a house. Managed to finally win a bid in this insane housing market. Now I'm the sole owner of this house. I would never have dreamed that I could own a house by myself. My salary barely increased from buying a condo to the house, so savings wouldn't have done anything."
19."My husband and I bought our condo in late 2021 using only our own money. We were 31 and 29 when we purchased and put down $21,000 on a $485,000 ($20,000 over asking price) condo in San Diego. Closing costs were around $9,000, and we put another $8,000 of work into the condo before we moved in. We had a $100 PMI, but it will be removed after nine months of ownership because our condo has appreciated almost 20% since we moved in."
20."I bought my house in the Bay Area before age 30 this last summer. We didn’t have help from parents, and it was very hard work, but to be honest, anyone who manages to buy a house in this market got lucky somewhere."
"How I worked for it:
* Sticking to a strict budget and not increasing spending over the years as I made more money.
* Working side jobs while I was hourly, then working double time for years to earn bonuses once salaried.
"Ways I just got lucky:
* Being married and therefore being able to combine our income.
* Living in a city with rent control laws. After 10 years in my apartment, I was paying less than 70% of what others in the complex were paying.
* A lawsuit settlement from my former employer that came out to about half a year’s pay after taxes and my attorney’s cut.
* Signing an agreement promising not to sue another company, which came out to maybe a couple of months' pay after taxes.
* Finding a new job that, without any exaggeration, nearly doubled my salary overnight."
21."My wife and I lived with her parents rent-free for a year to save for a down payment. This was in 2010, so real estate prices had bottomed out and there were tons of foreclosures for bargain prices. We got a house in our Midwestern city for $90,000 and sold it a couple of years ago for $230,000 when we had to move. We put about $20,000 into renovations, so $120,000 was just the change in market prices. We got hugely lucky that we needed to buy and sell when we did."
22."My parents always told my sister and me that we could have a wedding or take the money and put it down on a house. Both of us took the money and bought homes. We also got incredibly lucky because we live in a place where homes are affordable (my home cost $64 a square foot) and we didn’t mind doing some repairs and renovations. With prices increasing, though, I don’t know how the people coming up right now will be able to afford homes, especially with people offering cash above appraisal value."
23."I lived at home till my mid-20s and saved a small down payment then. I wasn't able to save anything while renting on my own. I sacrificed a lot of the travel and partying that my peers were doing. I was extremely fortunate to buy my first home just before the market exploded in the early 2010s. I bought the tiniest little house, an old converted cottage, in a more remote community with a longer commute. It was all I could afford, but it got my foot in the door. If I'd waited just one more year to buy, I wouldn't have been able to afford it. It's so sad now, seeing so many people unable to afford to buy, even with good salaries."
24."I saved half of my income for four years (I was living with my parents, so I could afford to), and my dad still had to gift me with the money for the deposit. The money I saved covered fees and furniture. Without that, I have no idea how long it would have taken me to afford by own place."
Can you relate? Share your homeownership story in the comments.
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.