If you guessed that young people are staying out of the housing market, you'd be very right. They're low on jobs, high on student debt, and freaked out by the crash. But the fall of home ownership among the young isn't a freak outcome of the Great Recession. It's a 30-year slump with its origins in the decline of marriage, the rise of female education, and the vicissitudes of the labor market.
This week, I did my best to unpack the end of ownership as a national ambition. And many of you responded with beautiful testimonials about your regrets, fears, and experiences as past and future owners and renters. Here are your stories. As always, if you keep writing, I'll keep posting.
'WE WISH LIKE HELL WE HAD NEVER BOUGHT'
I am 32; my wife and I bought our house five years ago. And this is what I tell my friends and colleagues at work who are my age or younger and thinking of buying a house or condominium: Don't.
On paper, at least, my wife and I are perfect home-owner candidates: Married, taxable income hovering around $100K, parents of 2 children, owners of 2 dogs. We both hold master's degrees, she owns her own business, I work a unionized job. Our only debts are our mortgage, one car payment, and a loan from my father that carries no interest. Between that latter loan and an inheritance I received, we put down fully one-third of the cost on our 1,100 square-foot, three-bedroom home in San Jose, California.
And we wish like hell we had never bought.
We are tied to a place that is prohibitively expensive to live, requiring both of us to work instead of one parent staying home. Homes require constant upkeep and expense. Psychologically, young buyers like us fail to truly do the math on property taxes, homeowners insurance, flood insurance, earthquake insurance, plumbing, yardwork, general maintenance, drainage, so on and so forth. Young couples buy what we can afford, not what we will need: our home is too small now that we have added a second child.
To my friends and colleagues I say, "Think about where you want to be in fifteen, twenty years. Is it in that neighborhood? In this city? Will you have children? How many do you want or might be possible? Do you want pets? What do you want nearby? How does it factor into your costs now, and in twenty years when retirement and paying for college are no longer distant abstracts?
"Do not buy a house until you can afford one with all those other considerations factored in."
And with stagnating wages, high unemployment, and job mobility -- what if your company picks up shop and tells everyone it's time to move to North Carolina or lose your job? -- as daily concerns, the last fucking thing a young couple should be thinking about is buying a goddamn house.
'Get the hell out of debt as soon as possible'
I am 50 years old, divorced without children or other immediate family obligations, and within two years of paying off my mortgage. I'm doing it Dave Ramsey-style: throw pretty much every dollar I can at the mortgage to get the hell out of debt as fast as possible. The mortgage is the last debt I have. I'm disciplined but lucky. Very lucky. Still...the house is as much an albatross as a home. Almost unsellable in the current market, and my neighborhood shows signs of serious distress as vacants accumulate and rentals accumulate.
I recently tallied up all invoices for repairs and updates since I bought the house in 1997. A few were optional, but for the most part not. As an investment my house is a disaster. If I had continued to rent and saved the money that has gone into mortgage, taxes, and upkeep, I would have quite a pile of cash. Now, with the economy as it is and will likely be for some time to come, my best self-defense is to carry no debt and save what I can. If inflation picks up a lot, then my savings are screwed. But, then, so will everyone's.
If you're thinking of buying a house, just remember that there is probably a sizable pile of bullshit in any justification or encouragement offered by the real estate industry and financial industry. Make sure that owning a house really does mesh with your values and what is truly important to your family. As a purely financial matter, buying a house is a largely ridiculous proposition. Maybe the economy will turn around and the equation will become more favorable, but be very mindful before you make that bet.
'Buying has really worked out for us'
My husband and I are younger - 26 & 27 - and we bought almost three years ago. We don't have kids yet and the only other debt besides the mortgage is one car payment. At the time, I was working on the editorial side of a regional newspaper, which isn't the most stable job you can come by, so when we were looking at houses, we did not factor my income into the equation. We purposely allowed for the fact that I could lose my job at any time, and agreed not to spend (or even look) at houses that would make that situation uncomfortable.
What that means (aside from the benefit of being able to stop working when/if we decide to have kids) is that we still have enough disposable income to do the constant upkeep, save for improvements on the home, etc. That was all part of the budgeting process.
We don't plan on living here forever (maybe five more years at best), but because we bought at a time when the market was so bad and interest rates were so good (they're even better now - we're considering refinancing), that isn't a problem. We probably won't make gobs of money when we do sell, but due to some improvements we've made (and general improvement in the local economy), it's highly unlikely that we'll take a loss.
While I understand that this isn't a situation that would be available to everyone, it really does seem that similar forethought would still make home ownership a viable and desirable option. I understand that people my age want to be mobile and that they want to live by in large in expensive areas, but that doesn't mean that it's absolutely a bad idea for anyone to consider.
After renting for two years and dealing with all the crap renters go through, all while paying almost as much for about half the space, it really has worked out for us. My main point being, that for some people, thinking about buying absolutely makes sense, if you think it through enough.
'I love the mobility that renting allows me'
I am 29 and single with no kids and have been a renter since I started working appx. 6 years ago. The one point that I would add is that outside of the economic considerations of buying vs. renting, there is also a psychological component to renting that I have enjoyed. As mentioned in the article, I think in previous generations, owning a home was much more of a status symbol and evidence that a person had "made it" than it is for someone in my demographic today. Additionally, I can't put a price on the value of not having to think about things like lawn care, winterizing, unexpected maintenance costs, remodeling considerations, etc. Not having to worry about those things gives me a lot more time to enjoy my day. Lastly, I love the mobility that renting allows me. I met a girl who moved to New York, and when deciding whether or not to relocate with her, I'm able to think solely about our relationship rather than having to consider an added obstacle of having to sell a house. For me, any potential economic benefit that could be derived from home ownership is negated by the stress that would accompany it.
'JOB SECURITY NO LONGER EXISTS'
Back in the early 70s we were living in San Jose. A friend of ours had just bought a new house in the Almaden Valley for $28,000. I thought he was crazy and would never be able to pay it off. Inflation ensured that he probably did. Deflation, on the other hand, is a different story.
The primary problem for today's young potential buyers is that job security no longer exists and mobility, as regards selling a house and moving to a new job market, has been greatly reduced. In the short term, in our economy, it is best not to be tied down to one place, unless that place is exceptional.
However, in the long term, one needs to think of the needs of retirement and its reduced income. Our permanent home in rural northern Minnesota is paid for. When we move back, we will have no regular monthly house expense (or city services) to budget for, meaning we will be able to live on much less.
'My generation wants more freedom to travel, to see and live in new places'
I am 25, and will be married soon. Anytime I think about buying a home, I ask myself, "What am I supposed to do with it when I move?" That's not "if" I move, but when. My generation wants more freedom to travel, to see and live in new places and to experience new cultures. In general, buying a home can seem like a rejection of freedom, and anytime one of my friends gets a home, I just can't help but think how restricted they now are, whether that's true or not.
At the same time, I can rent a home (especially if I want a yard for dogs or children) and not have to worry about moving. It's a win-win from that angle. As far as earning value on a home, well we all know how that goes these days...
'I did the math and buying came out cheaper than renting'
I did the math and buying came out cheaper than renting so it wasn't that hard of a decision. This is even assuming breaking even on the sale of the house. If I was to stay 30 years and pay off the loan, it would be cheaper overall assuming that my house sold for $0 at the end of it. Of course, I have one kid already and another on the way, so I don't really at this point in my life want to move every year like I used to. I will say that I was in your exact position 5 years ago, and made the same decision, which was made easier because I thought the market was due for a huge crash in 2007 in San Diego.
I live in San Diego, which saw a huge bubble but also was one of the first areas to crash and it crashed hard as well. When I purchased, monthly payments to rents were at historical lows for the area. I agree that purchasing a house and depending on appreciation to make you money on the deal will more than likely end poorly for you. However, I would tell people to do the math and see if in their area if it makes sense.
'A house is nothing but a huge time and money suck'
I'm 36 and bought a house about ten years ago when I was married and have since got divorced/sold the house. I made money on the sale and still have no interest in buying another which gets me no shortage of strange stares from my friends and co-workers. I tell everybody that with listen that it's nothing but a huge time and money suck. It's like a car but 10 or 20 times more expensive and even then you're doing most the work yourself. The only way I'd ever buy again is as a consumption purchase, meaning I got more money than I know what to do with.
'RENTING IS FINANCIAL SUICIDE'
I wish I had bought straight out of college. If I had swallowed my pride and moved into a double-wide, and then upgraded housing as I could afford something better, by now (10 years post graduation) I'd be living in a house that costs $50k more, that would be completely paid off, three towns away from the city I'm in now; and that is not even factoring in house values, that is purely what I would have saved between rent and interest on my current mortgage. And then at any point if I wanted to pull up stake and move somewhere else I could always just rent out my place until I could get the price I was looking for.
I'm 4 years in on my current mortgage, hopefully to be fully paid off in another 4. I'm throwing every spare penny at it. When my house is paid off I will be debt free and will be able to support my current life-style delivering newspapers.
I'd say buy what you can realistically pay off in 3-5 years, and then upgrade as the market conditions are favorable, even if that means living in less then picturesque conditions for a bit.
Home ownership is a big commitment, but in my opinion renting is financial suicide.
'I could not imagine ever wanting to buy a house'
I am 28. I could not imagine ever wanting to buy a house. I actually can't think of a single reason why I should. Not one. I find the idea repellant. The primary reason is that I value mobility above most other things, but even that to one side, I wouldn't want to make such a huge and expensive commitment.
'Student loans: A drag on credit that negate the chance to save up a downpayment.'
I'm 29, single, and make over 50k a yr. in the 'would be buying if not for student loans' group. Not only are student loans a drag on credit, but they also pretty much negate any chance to save up a downpayment. Not complaining here-I took them out and I'm paying them, but it is something that older generations just don't get.
My dad asked recently about my rent ($900 a mo, about average for my Seattle neighborhood). He flipped. "you could buy for that!!!". Ok I said, are you going to send me a downpayment for a $200k condo? That's another important point: even with the burst bubble, home prices are still extremely high in cities where younger people want to live.
'Is home owning right for everyone? Goodness no.'
My wife and I bought in 2009, in a neighborhood where she'd lived for 10 years (and I'd lived for six) already. We knew exactly what we wanted and what we could afford: A 900 square foot 2BR condo in a very small association, under a half-mile from the subway. With taxes and insurance and condo fees, it comes out to slightly less than our previous rent & renters' insurance. Of course, there's always the inevitable furnace or roof replacement, but still. That's split 3 across the association and so I'm less concerned about it than if I had to pay for it all by myself.
As long as we don't move in the next 2-3 years it'll have paid off for us monetarily. And already, we have been happy to pay for the privilege of doing things like putting in the stove and sink we wanted.
Is it right for everyone? Goodness no. But it never was.
'We got tired of building someone else's equity'
I'm 29, my wife is 30. We have been in the process of buying a short sale since Thanksgiving of this year in Northern NJ, approx 40 miles from New York City. It's close to both of our jobs and where we grew up, in a great area with great schools and a great center of town. The biggest obstacle for purchasing power for us has been student loan debt (I have law school, she has undergraduate) and our incomes - combined, between 90 and 100k. No credit card debt, my car is paid off and hers is halfway there.
Why do we want to own? For the past year, some children roughly 6 years younger than us moved in to the apartment below us. They recently graduated college and wanted to continue that lifestyle - parties until 3 am on a Tuesday, slamming doors, etc. With the mobility of renting also comes the unpredictability - the landlord sells the building, raises rent, the town goes south. We also desperately want a yard for our dog and a driveway to do car repairs, place to store camping gear and our bikes. Then there's the simple fact that a mortgage, even with the disgustingly high property taxes in this state, still costs *less* than the average rent.
The short of it was that we got tired of building someone else's equity.
The biggest barrier to home ownership in New Jersey from our experience was the residual inflation from the housing bubble - people who paid nearly half million dollars for a 900 square foot, 2br, 1 bath home with parking for maybe two cars were still asking between $300 and $350,000. We were expected to shoulder the burden of the mistakes of the banks and the people who bought at the bubble's height. As a result, the short sale we are purchasing is only within our price range because of extensive mold damage due to a burst pipe.
The result for us has been to not view ownership as an investment to be sold in 5 years and move up, but a chance to build some equity and have a place to live that is ours, to do repairs ourselves and not wait for a landlord to make the repairs, and have a yard for us to grill in and play with our dog. If we can put some elbow equity into this place and sell up, great. If the value stays the same or even goes down slightly, well we can at least get our use out of it for the next decade.
'I'm a committed renter'
A few years ago I was looking into buying a house. It was at the top of the market, in Virginia. I had a steady federal civil servant job, so my income was slightly higher than the median but by no means excessive.
I looked at just about every house in my budget in the area, and was treated to a sad parade of falling down, in the ghetto, or falling down in the ghetto. That was after months of learning the obscure codes of purchasing a property: 2 year old roof? Well, that got blown off in a hurricane, did they fix the rest of the damage? Then there were the "recently remodeled," which meant there was a coat of paint and maybe some laminate floors slapped down, which did nothing at all for the green mould visible through the new paint, or the 80-year-old massive fire hazard electrical wiring, or the graffiti sprayed on the detached garage and hastily painted over, or the obvious drainage problems even on a day when there had been no rain in a week. "Starter home" was code for family with children looking to move to something bigger, where the carpets were stained with the patina of ground-in cheetos and the pong of mouldering food stashed away for future eating that only a house with little kids can have.
Eventually, I sat down and did the numbers.
Either I would have a house that would put me one bad bill away from serious financial danger (from the mortgage itself or from the amount of money it would cost to make it liveable), or I would have a house that would require at least a 45-minute commute each way, every day, meaning a huge increase in transport costs. The total cost of buying a house, even with the cheapest interest-only loan, would be a minimum of $300 more than renting my current place, without figuring in maintenance or repairs or tax increases. At the time, that money was the difference between living paycheck to paycheck and living comfortably if minimally. I said thanks but no thanks to my agent, and walked away, feeling very lucky that I had.
Add into that the rampant fraud, abuse, property titling problems with MERS, servicing trouble, and yes, an unstable job market where income is not guaranteed, and it's understandable that buying a house is not seen as a slam dunk investment. I'm a committed renter for the time being; unless and until I can find a property that is in reasonable repair, in a reasonable neighbourhood, and the cost of buying and maintaining that property is no more than 10% more than renting, I will gladly sign a lease and put the excess in my IRA or cash savings.
'I'M 28. I LIVE WITH MY PARENTS. IT'S MY CHOICE.'
I'm 28. I live with my parents. It's my choice. I worked from 2002-2008, between 2003-2007 I invested heavily in short term strategy. In 2008 I quick my job. Nothing to do with the recession, I just wanted to go to school and focus only on school. Not school + work at the same time. The hell with that. I have the money to get my own place but I don't. I don't date by choice. I'm well fit, I go to the gym 3 times a week and jog with my labradors twice a day. So. I don't work because I decided to only focus on school with the funds I earned during my investment period between 03-07. I live with my parents not because I can't afford my own place but because it makes more sense to. Why move 15 miles away into the city when I have a nice suburban neighborhood that I know everyone in, I feel safe jogging my dogs around usually around 2am-3am? Why date? The girl will eventually require 1. I move out, 2. require a whole ton of other nonsensical things and eventually want to have kids. I'm not ready to have kids or get married. Will I? Sure, eventually. I'm thinking when I'm 40. I'm totally ok with dating/marrying someone 10-15 years younger than me. For now I'm just focusing on school. Bachelors, JD/MBA and a Phd. When I'm done I'll focus on building up my capital reserves once again and then focus on dating and finding someone to start a family with where in which I'll have capital to support my children and an education to be able to attain some type of decent job. Will I move out? Maybe, depends. My dad's getting up there and I rather stay at home and hire an at home nurse then put him in a nursing home. So if I have a family I probably will want to stay put. Job wise I live in a fairly decent spot that allows me to work in DC, Philly, NYC and Boston. If I have to fly out to my future job say in London or Phoenix, so be it. But it makes more sense to stay put over buying a home.
I say all this to point out there is exceptions. I don't know what % there are of people like myself. I think the biggest mistake the baby boomers made was to marry and buy homes way too quickly. Why not take things slow, focus on one thing at a time and build from there? It's a hell of a lot less stressful than trying to maintain a job, while trying to further your education and raise 2-4 kids and pay for a car loan and mortgage all at the same time. The hell with that, that's idiotic and way too stressful.
'I was so glad we were renting when our water heater blew out'
When I graduated from college, I had a job making around $30k and was tens of thousands of dollars in debt with student loans. So, I rented with room mates. I barely made ends meet.
A few years later, I met my now husband. His story is the same.
We got married and rented a place and started saving toward hopefully owning a home one day.
A year later, we became parents. I was making a good deal more by this point, but then the cost of full time child care hit us. We don't have family in the area to lean on for help with this.
We've been married now for nine years and make approximately $130k, but in the DC area, that's peanuts. And we're still paying approximately $1600/month in child care.
So, we don't own a home because we have been unable to save enough for a down payment between paying off student loans, rent, child care, car payments, and general monthly bills.
Now that we can see the end of child care near the end of this year, we plan to pay off some debt and save a down payment.
But I'm in no hurry to buy. I was so glad we were renting last month when our water heater and furnace both blew out. We would not have had the available funds to fix those problems.
'BUY SEVERELY BELOW YOUR MEANS'
My husband and I bought a home three weeks ago! We are in our early 30s and it's our first, and everything I've learned over the last 6 months has frightened me into ever wanting to sell it. You simply can't make money on homes anymore - the norms have changed. Of course we didn't buy it as an investment. We bought because we are certain we are staying in central Ohio. We want kids and pets. We hate paper-thin apartment walls. We bought for psychological satisfaction knowing full well we might not make a dime. We bought a home of appropriate size for 2-3 kids, and in a school district we like. In other words - our contingency plan is to never have to move.
We make $110k base salary and my husband makes another $30k or so in his independent business (but we don't count on that money). We have zero credit card debt, no car payments, but student loan debt is a bitch. In all truth, in looking at the cost, risk, and rewards of this process - it seems like we are really in the lucky 5 or 10% of people our age who can even afford this. I am appalled by the extent to which people live above their means, are pressured into home-buying (without carefully considering the costs), or do it just because it's the next thing to do in life. The only thing stupider that I can think of is having a baby just because "that's what you do." (Unfortunately many people do both of these things.)
My advice: buy severely below your means; amass a huge down payment; do months of research on schools and crime and be prepared to stay put - for the long haul; go for a 15 or 20 year mortgage and pay the extra month's payment every year to pay that sucker off; and don't be surprised when you go to sell if the market is crap and you get taken for a ride by your agent, the buyers, the inspector, etc. This is just life. Buy because you enjoy mowing a lawn and painting someone's hideous walls and cleaning gutters and having a sense of responsibility. And stop moaning over property taxes - if you've selected a neighborhood you love and want to be in, you're paying the price.
'I don't think buying makes sense: We've weathered three layoffs since the crash'
I am 32, recently married, have no educational or other debt, and have enough saved for a 20% starter home downpayment in Los Angeles (where I live.) Our combined income is definitely upper(ish) middle class and comfortable. And yet, we are not planning to buy, for many of the reasons enumerated in the article and comments section. First and foremost, I do not think buying makes sense in the still-falling/stagnant Los Angeles market, especially when factoring in all the additional expenses (tax, insurance, maintenance). We currently rent a lovely, rent-controlled, duplex in a central location and save all the money we might have poured into a falling/stagnant-value home (or tossed via 30 years of interest payments), helping secure our financial future more than a homeownership "investment" might. But my choice to rent instead of own is more than a simple account-balance financial decision: I don't think buying makes sense for our long-term finances or our values.
We've weathered three layoffs since the crash. Luckily, we both work in in-demand industries and found new jobs quickly. But the new jobs have taken us all over the Los Angeles area. If we had purchased a home, we would have lost crucial mobility that comes from renting near our jobs and avoiding 2 hour commutes in traffic. The new economy means we expect that our job situations will continue to change, throughout our lifetimes, and being stuck in one location - even within the same city - would be detrimental to our careers. And given that we expect some measure of cycling unemployment and do NOT expect rising wages (though we're certainly working towards them) I have no desire to tether myself to a 30 year payment plan when I don't know what my income and expenses will look like next year, let alone 30 years from now. What if I take time off for children or unexpected illness? What if it takes more than 2 months to find a job after the next layoff? What if we need to save for my future-children's college fund AND retirement but our income has remained stagnant? We could do it with a rental, or by moving to a less expensive rental. We wouldn't be able to do it with a mortgage. Not with the salaries we currently have (which are very comfortable, and for which we are very grateful.)
Another major factor is that we can rent a home or condo in a better school district than we will ever be able to buy into, at a fraction of the cost. We could afford to buy a $400,000 home in Los Angeles, but those homes have marginal schools. We can afford to rent in areas with $750,000 homes and much better schools.
Lastly, we find that apartment living is beneficial for our quality of life, particularly with a home-like duplex. We live in a smaller space than homeowner friends, so we don't buy as much stuff. We don't spend time, money, or stress on home repairs. We live in a more central area than where we could afford to buy, so we spend less time commuting and get to live in the middle of a vibrant urban culture that we take full advantage of.
The world has changed, in more than financial ways. In many markets, homeownership no longer makes rational sense, even for those who can afford it. I understand the emotional pull of home and place, but that doesn't outweigh the negatives I see in homeownership in the new economy.
'I would recommend home ownership -- in my Texas community only'
My husband and I are in our mid-twenties. Neither of us have college degrees. We were fortunate enough to be able to purchase a home this last Nov. However; it wasn't easy or conventional. We had to go owner finance. Our credit wasn't bad, it just wasn't good enough. The biggest draw back with the owner finance is that you can't really pick and choose what you want. We were very lucky to get a house in a decent neighborhood and move-in ready. We also didn't quite have enough for a down payment so we ended up borrowing from relatives. Many people would have suggested that we waited until we had the ability to buy, but with a second child on the way waiting wasn't an option. We had been renting a small house in deplorable conditions. The rent was ridiculously high for a house in extreme disrepair. More decent rent homes were much much higher than what we could afford. That is when we decided it would be better to try to buy a house.
Before this we had been looking into purchasing the traditional way. I can tell you from our perpective it was very disheartening. It seemed to us that we'd never be able to get a home. The criteria is just too high especially in this economy. We felt that it was only children of the affluent had the ability to buy. My husband and I both came from lower middle class families. After graduating high school we really only had the clothes on our backs.
We have been extremely fortunate to make as much as we do in Texas. In our community we're part of the top 35%. But, that definitely doesn't mean that we have much after bills. We enjoy our home, however; we generally do not have the money to go beyond the general maintenance. We'd like to do some improvements, but they'll have to wait for a good while.
I would recommend homeownership in my community only. I think for young people they need to really know how their local economy and job market is. Owning in other states may not be a good option.
'Don't buy a fixer-upper unless you really, really know'
I bought my first house in Philadelphia in 2005 at the age of 25, at the height of overpriced pricing madness. Our agents were showing us 350k houses that were fixer uppers, in Philadelphia!! We finally found the one in a great neighborhood. It was the cheapest house around at 225k but it was a freaking dump, literally was owned by a crackhead previous. Needless to say the relationship with my boyfriend didn't last after paying to replace just one bathroom and showering in the basement in a makeshift shower for 6 months. It was overpriced, and even though we could afford it our mortgage people did have us lie about our salaries with a letter from my employer that I was about to get a raise. Lesson learned here: don't buy a fixer upper unless you really, really know. Add up the costs of everything and look under every drop top roof, rug, or other covering to see what they are hiding. And also just because people are all going mad about the market like lemmings doesn't mean you should too. Trust your instincts.
I then bought a home, wiser and solo, at the age of 30 in a gentrifying area of Philadelphia. The home was 120k which I could totally afford and had been a completely rebuilt home from a shell. I lost my job after 8 months of owning and was offered a job in California. So I barely had a chance to settle in before hitting the road. I'm currently renting the house out and making a few hundred a month, but honestly I think will dump the house the first chance I get.
Now live in San Jose, CA with a boyfriend and our combined salaries are over 200k. There is no way we can afford a home and will continue renting for now. Totally fine with that!
'The days of home ownership being a good investment are NOT over...'
We bought our house in 2006 for 90k. The plan was to stay for 3-5 years, then use the money we made on the sale to upgrade.
2 years later we had to move 250 miles away for work without selling the house.
4 years after that, we're finishing up the short sale
Writing a check every month for three years sure didn't make a house seem like a smart move.
The days of home ownership being a good investment are not over, but the days of buying a starter home that you can upgrade at a profit whenever your circumstances change are.
'There are simply not enough places I want to live where I could afford a house/condo'
I am 31 and single, living with my girlfriend; for a time I was interested in buying a house/condo but am no longer interested in doing so. This has nothing to do with being married or being able to afford a house. There are two main reasons I have decided not to buy.
I could afford a number of houses / condos in my "market" and "location", however they are not actually in a location I would like to live. The majority of available and affordable housing in my area is located far away city centers and from functioning neighborhoods. Mainly in suburban and exurban areas. In order to "afford" housing in the locations I desire, I would be subject to far too much debt, which I feel is irresponsible.
The second reason is antipathy towards the government housing programs that set in place lending practices centered on mass home ownership. Home ownership rates as an indicator do not equate to a healthy or wealthy society. At the height of home ownership, our country, on an individual basis, was also at its height of individual debt.
The first reason is most important, however. There are simply not enough places that I would like to live where I could also afford a house/condo. This has been caused by the rampant growth of placeless suburbs. As a person who has a choice, great I can still afford rents in good locations and have no problem continuing to do so. But for many people who cannot afford rents or housing in functioning neighborhoods or cities, they are pushed out to suburbs from the 1960's and 70's that have fallen out of fashion and saddled with increasingly high transportation costs.
So I fit the demographic at issue here but none of the causes. Was interested in buying when single. Have no college debt (have a degree). Maybe I fall somewhat into the 'homebuying as an act of faith category'... But mostly its finding good places worth investing in.
'I would buy the house'
I am 30; my wife and I bought our house seven years ago. We have two kids and recently spent $60,000 making an addition to our home. The only debt we have is our mortgage. and my house has increase in resale value since purchase(including the cost of the addition). The main difference is I live in Albuquerque, NM instead of Southern Cal. If the alternative to buying a home and maybe losing some value before selling it is throwing away 100% of your money on rentals, I would buy the house. It is hard to tell what house will be a good investment (make money), but it is easy to tell which ones you will lose money on.