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Not all millenials putting off homeownership

Published: Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014 5:40 a.m. CDT

When Nate and Melissa Smith spied the granite kitchen countertops, open floor plan and significantly below-market price, they knew they wanted to make the Brittany Woods home in Cary their own. It was July. They’d started looking in February, a few months before their May wedding. And everything else they’d seen in their price range of up to $250,000 had been snapped up quickly. 

This was a foreclosure, in remarkably good condition, and at a price well below the young couple’s limit, they said. 

“You guys have to see the kitchen,” Melissa Smith said during a quick, broker-assisted tour of the 2,618-square-foot, four-bedroom, 2.5-bath home.

“They couldn’t believe how lucky they got,” said Jay Menzel, the Coldwell Banker broker who worked with the 23-year-olds on their first home-buying experience.

As part of Gen Y, also known as the millennial generation, the Smiths are part of what’s currently the largest single share of homebuyers, at 31 percent, according to a National Association of Realtors report issued earlier this year. And yet, many national reports have pegged a lagging housing recovery on 18- to 34-year-olds holding back on making the leap into home ownership at greater numbers than previous generations.

“We were teeter-tottering,” Nate Smith said about the decision to buy versus rent. “We kind of had a plan that if we saw something like this …”

Unlike many millennials for whom home ownership has been put off thanks to high student loan debt or other financial factors, the Smiths, both graduates of Indiana University Bloomington, did not carry that burden into the equation.

“He didn’t have any student loans, and I paid mine off,” Melissa Smith said. “We both got jobs right out of school.”

Melissa Smith said she still was somewhat hesitant until she and her husband sat down and talked about the financial nitty-gritty, taking into account such things as the tax advantages of a mortgage versus a lease.

The Smiths expect to close on their home by mid-September. Although closing dates can be tenuous with foreclosures, they’re excited about their imminent new beginning. Nate Smith looks forward to tackling the expansive lawn, and Melissa Smith loves that the house is located within walking distance of area schools.

The couple currently lives in a small Arlington Heights apartment. Nate Smith works for Sears in Hoffman Estates and Melissa Smith is a technology consultant for a downtown Chicago firm. 

They considered looking further east, but both sets of parents are in Cary, the town is along the commuter rail line and their home-buying dollar stretched further here, they said. 

“I can add 20 minutes to my commute each way and we can have a lot more house,” Melissa Smith said. “This is definitely a place where we have lots of room to grow.”

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