Young people want to buy homes, but are caught in a quandary

To buy or not to buy a home? For many Millennials, that's the question. USA Today dove into the thought process about whether or not to buy a home in your 20s or 30s.

Owning a home has many benefits, including tax breaks and the potential to build value, plus mortgage payments are often lower than rent for a comparable home — especially over the long term. But in some cities, rent can be so high that it's difficult, if not impossible, to save the recommended 20% down payment.

"Long term, homeownership is a key part of household wealth creation," says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for "If young people are not getting into homeownership at the same stage, it’s going to put them further behind from a wealth and retirement perspective." Not to mention the entire housing ecosystem, as Smoke refers to it, falls apart if the cycle of upgrading and then eventually downsizing homes ceases.

Long term, homeownership is a key part of household wealth creation.
— Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for

There are a lot of places to lay blame, and it's not just high rents. Many point to crushing student debt loads. But the real culprits, say experts, are the housing crisis and the Great Recession, which forced many Americans into foreclosure. Many who didn't lose their homes found themselves with negative equity — owing more to their lender than a fair market price. This is commonly referred to as being underwater in a mortgage, and when homeowners feel like they are drowning, they tend to stay put. That leads to not enough affordable supply to meet the demand.

"The biggest single impediment right now is affordable housing, finding homes that are affordable to Millennials," says Svenja Gudell, chief economist with homebuying site Zillow, pointing to the fact that, as of March, inventory was down nearly 6% nationally compared with this time last year.

The full analysis and videos can be seen here.

Dawnita Parmely