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Priced Out of Paradise: American dream of homeownership vanishing for many millennials

'It's just infuriating,' 26-year-old Rebecca Lucatero says
Posted at 11:51 AM, Feb 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-18 10:00:22-05

ROYAL PALM BEACH, Fla. — The American dream of owning a home has been a nightmare for many millennials.

Palm Beach County's fierce real estate market practically makes it impossible for this age group to not only find a home but buy one.

A local young couple in Royal Palm Beach, living with her parents, knows about this firsthand, watching a vanishing dream go by day after day.

"It is scary when we look at these prices," says 26-year-old Rebecca Lucatero.

Erik Lucatero and Rebecca Lucatero, millennials looking to buy a home
Erik Lucatero and Rebecca Lucatero speak about the struggles of trying to buy a home during the hot housing market.

Lucatero and her husband, Erik, saw their dream of owning a home and went after it.

"The closer you get to where everyone is at, the higher it is," said Erik Lucatero.

Then came reality. Home after home, offer after offer.

"It's just infuriating. I just don't know how we're supposed to move on and create the life that we want with the circumstances that are currently going on," said Rebecca Lucatero.

Both are millennials who are part of a growing trend in Palm Beach County real estate.

They're getting priced out and pushed out.

Data from the research group "Filterbuy" shows only 9.1 percent of homeowners in West Palm Beach are under 35, which is well below the national average.

Holly Meyer Lucas, real estate agent
Holly Meyer Lucas offers advice to millennials looking to buy a home.

"If you're a millennial, getting a mortgage right now, it's really challenging because we're in the hottest market our generation has ever seen, and you're up against cash buyers," said real estate agent Holly Meyer Lucas.

She walked us through the agonizing process for this generation and the frenzy when a house comes on the market.

"It's really hard. This one we had 14 offers on it already, and of those 12 are snowbirds with cash," Meyer Lucas said.

In fact, she said six months ago there would have been 40 offers, which is a sign that buyer fatigue could be setting in, which works to a millennial's advantage.

The duration of time a house sits on the market is another sign.

Meyer Lucas said don't give up.

A lot of factors contribute to its length of stay on the market.

"If you're a millennial and you see a home that has been sitting for 10 days, don't assume that it's overpriced or not a great house," Meyer Lucas said.

For the Lucateros, it has become very frustrating and watching market inventory has become depressing.

"If we try to envision that, we're just going to start making ourselves feel bad," said Erik Lucatero.

"It's sad because I feel like at our age we're not where we are supposed to be at all," said Rebecca Lucatero.

They are a young couple representing many millennials who have a goal to simply own a home for the first time in their lives.

However, they are realizing each day that it is unrealistic when they're competing in one of the most aggressive markets in the country.

"Everybody wants to be a dreamer but at some point, you have to let it go to live this American dream of pursuing what you want to do, but you have to sleep on someone's couch," said Rebecca Lucatero.

The Lucateros are thinking about moving to Georgia. Many others like them are moving to areas like Port St Lucie, where more affordable housing can be obtained.

Meyer Lucas said areas in Martin County like Palm City, Hobe Sound and Stuart, along with developments in St. Lucie County, are where younger families are opting.

In fact, she said the city of Indiantown just approved 800 homes priced under the $400,000 range, so that will help ease the burden.

Meyer Lucas offered some tips for millennials looking to buy a home in this tough housing market:

Work with a good agent

Use an agent dialed in to your specific area who knows about early inventory. She said many homes are sold off-market because sellers don't want the frenzy, so a good agent will know of those properties.

Get pre-approved for a loan

Have all your paperwork done early so when a house hits the market, you can hand that straight to the buyer immediately knowing time is critical.

Work with a local lender

Strong local lenders can be better than bigger banks because lots of times listing agents call the lender to see how qualified you are for a loan. When it comes to getting a hold of someone, a big national bank tends to be harder, Meyer Lucas said. It's easier to work with a lender that is local.

Look at a fixer-upper

Look for houses that aren't turnkey-ready. There are deals out there for properties that need cosmetic work. Renovations can be done over time and over the years, so that can work to your advantage.