For generations, homeownership was not only considered practical, it was also thought to be one of the safest and smartest investment you could make. But the housing crisis of 2008 changed that mindset. Since then, it’s been unclear if the allure of homeownership will return, and whether or not Millennials—who came of age during the downturn—would ever have the means, or desire, to buy homes of their own.
According to a recent report from the National Association of Realtors, first-time homebuyers make up about 33 percent of purchases nationwide; the historical average between 1981 to the period before the boom and bust, was about 40 percent. It’s still largely unclear if the dearth of first-time homebuyers is because of persistent economic instability or because young adults, who typically make up the first-time-home-buying group, were put off of the idea of homeownership by the housing bust. The most recent Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll tried to assess not only motivation and desire to buy a home, but also whether or not views of homeownership as an important step in American life have changed for older or younger Americans.
Overall, the poll found that older and younger Americans generally regard homeownership as a smart and achievable goal in equal numbers: 72 percent of older respondents said that they felt this way, and 69 percent of younger Americans responded similarly. But the poll found bigger differences when it came to the two groups’ assessments of whether they’d ever be in a position to buy: Nearly one-in-five younger respondents felt that while homeownership is a smart decision, it’s not financially viable for them. Young white respondents were more likely than their minority counterparts to say that their finances probably would not support the purchase. Young women were also more likely than young men to say that homeownership was likely not an economically viable path. And only about 12 percent of respondents, young or old, felt that homeownership was actually a risky or poor choice.