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Here’s why more millennials are buying homes in Hall County
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Zac Sturgeon, 29, stands in front of the home he purchased in April in Gainesville on Friday, July 5, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

Younger faces are popping up in neighborhoods around Hall County. 

Over the past couple of years, Realtors in the area have seen in influx in millennial homebuyers. This age group encompasses those age 23 to 38.

By the end of 2018 around one in three millennials under the age of 35 owned a home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s April 25, 2019 report

Local Realtors Carolyn Gibson and Brenda Burke said their number of millennial clients has jumped up within the last two to three years. 

Gibson, who works with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, said around 60% of her business comes from first-time homebuyers. The millennials she has recently worked with are on the older end of the age group, ranging from 30 to 38 years old. 

Why millennials are buying 

Gibson said one of the factors that has influenced this increase in millennial homebuyers includes the price of rent and lack of rentals. 

“Housing has become so limited that they’re basically being forced to try and make that purchase,” she said. 

Zac Sturgeon, a 29-year-old who lives in South Hall, said his aggressive rent sparked his decision to bite the homebuying bullet. 

His rent increased three different times, each going up by around $90. 

“My thought process was, if I found a house in the $150-$170,000 range that requires little down, I’m looking at a monthly payment that’s less than my rent, to get into a house that starts building equity,” Sturgeon said. “It seemed like a no-brainer at that point.”

He purchased his first home in April 2019 for $213,000, which includes five bedrooms and three bathrooms. 

Gibson said she has noticed that many first-time millennial homebuyers have reported paying off their student debts and expressed interest in settling down. 

“They’re in a better position now,” she said. “Historically this is about the age when we have seen people get more serious about their efforts to acquire a home.”

Burke, who works with Keller Williams Realty, said many millennials have held back in taking the plunge because of housing market crash in the early 2000s.

“I think a lot of millennials have waited,” Burke said. “They witnessed us go through that crash and waited for the market to come back.”

Gibson said because of this, most of her millennial clients have gravitated toward being conservative with their money. 

Amelia Bell, a 29-year-old living in Flowery Branch, said she bought her first home on June 21, 2019 with a detailed expense plan in hand and no student debt. 

Over the course of several years, Bell started taking a certain amount from every paycheck, and depositing it into a high-yield savings account. Until she decided to pursue homeownership, she tried not to touch the money. 

Bell said she was also able to build up money for closing costs and a down payment by living with her parents for a short amount of time. 

Fear is one of the other hurdles, Gibson said that has kept millennials from purchasing a home. 

Sturgeon describes the process as “daunting.” 

“Just finally committing was the biggest obstacle,” Sturgeon said. “There’s a lot of people involved in the process. At the time I didn’t have for certain the down payment in my hand or accounts. I wasn’t certain where I was going to live and I didn’t know if I was really wanting to commit to the same area for a minimum of five to seven years.”

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Zac Sturgeon, 29, unlocks the door to home he purchased in April. - photo by Austin Steele
The difference in generations

Gibson, who has been in the real estate business for 20 years, said she enjoys seeing the generational differences between clients. 

Growing up with information at their fingertips, she finds that millennials typically do their research before pursuing homeownership. 

“They can be a little bit stubborn because they do have so much information,” she said. “Sometimes they don’t want to listen to someone that has experience. They think they’ve gathered all the experience themselves.”

Burke said she caters her work toward millennials. 

“If you’re not savvy with iPhones and Apple Watches, and sending their data to them, you can lose their attention,” she said. “It’s the best form of communication.”

Although Gibson has two decades under her belt in the field, she’s constantly re-educating herself. She takes continuing education courses to keep up with the changes in the industry and to best “protect this generation of kids.”

Both Gibson and Burke have witnessed the importance of community living with most of their millennial clients. 

Instead of living in the suburbs, they’ve noticed a draw toward the desire to be closer to social events and restaurants. 

Gibson said she believes this generation is breathing life back into inner-city living. 

“I’m seeing what’s happening to downtown Gainesville and it’s exciting,” Gibson said. “It’s great for the economy and creating opportunities to keep the city alive.”

Taking the plunge 

When Bell took on her position as the supply chain planner at King’s Hawaiian in Oakwood, she evaluated her budget and made the goal of purchasing a house the following year. 

She ended up buying a home in Flowery Branch for $268,500.

If she could give any advice to first-time homebuyers, she would tell them to “do your research, save and closely scrutinize your budget.”

She also recommends finding a real estate agent who has worked and lived in the area for a long time, and a reliable mortgage lender. Gibson served as Bell’s agent during her home-buying journey. 

“Between Carolyn and my mortgage broker, they made the process so easy,” Bell said. “Carolyn has local knowledge. The tips she gave me made this tremendously helpful.”

Like Bell, Sturgeon didn't have any student debt before purchasing a home. He works at Kubota Manufacturing of America Corporation in Gainesville and lives in South Hall. 

Sturgeon encourages millennials considering home buying to look at the different types of mortgage loans available. After doing research he found mortgage rates as low as 3% for first-time homebuyers.

Sturgeon said he lives his entire life out of a Google spreadsheet. Although he doesn’t track every bill with the document, it helps him stay on top of his budget. 

“It’s a free resource and it requires very basic Microsoft Excel type skills to set up,” he said. “It takes 10-20 minues to set up and you can effectively budget from there.”

While Sturgeon doesn’t enjoy allocating 25% of his bill every month toward the mortgage, he said he doesn’t have any regrets. 

“I’d say it’s worth it with a few caveats,” he said. “Make sure where you move, used or new, that things are handled. My builder was a lazy builder, who contracted lazy contractors. Make sure you’re on top of the small details when you sign the dotted line before you move in.”

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