Millennials saw the largest increases in homeownership of their lifetimes between 2019 and 2021, according to a Washington Post analysis of new Census Bureau data.

Pandemic relief and historically low mortgage rates helped millions of millennials buy homes for the first time. As droves of younger people entered the housing market, the median age of home buyers dropped for the first time in nearly a decade.
But that tide abruptly turned in 2022. Rising prices, decreasing inventory and high mortgage rates shut out younger buyers. The median age of home buyers skyrocketed to 53, the highest on record, according to a survey from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

At just 26%, the share of first-time buyers was the lowest since NAR began tracking the data. The typical first-time buyer was 36 years old – an all-time high.

Millennials have always lagged behind other generations in home ownership. They started their careers in the shadow of the Great Recession, when highly paid work was hard to find. Lower earnings, high student debts and reduced wealth have followed them ever since.
Millennials are less likely to own their homes. 27% of millennials (born 1981-96) lived in a home they or their partner owned at age 25-34, compared with 40% or more in previous generations.

When members of previous generations moved into rentals, many millennials stayed in their parents’ homes. When previous generations purchased their own homes, millennials moved into rentals for the first time.
Pandemic relief boosted savings for a down payment. Rents rose alongside home prices, and rock-bottom mortgage rates made it cheap to borrow money.

“First-time and younger buyers in 2021 still faced increasing home prices, but we did not see mortgage rates climb to the same level that we have in 2022,” said Brandi Snowden, director of member and consumer research at NAR.
According to Snowden, already high prices, low housing inventory and rapidly rising mortgage rates in 2022 “may have caused would-be buyers to delay homeownership.”

High mortgage rates also reduce the number of homes on the market. Homeowners are more likely to stay put when buying a new home, which means switching to a mortgage with a much higher interest rate.

“Anybody who already owned a house did very well,” said Gray Kimbrough, an economist at American University. “The problem is, if you go from renting to buying in a really expensive market, you don’t have the advantage of all the equity other people built up by happening to own a house in a market that got a lot more expensive.”