Hey Millennials — You know nothing about housing finance

So why are you completely okay with that?

Forty-two percent of homebuyers say they are not at all concerned about having a lack of understanding about the mortgage process.

That’s a pretty substantial number for one of the biggest financial decisions a person will ever make. And yet, 42% feel completely fine with their ignorance.

How ignorant are they? When put to the test, just one in four buyers correctly answered a series of questions about homebuying — including how annual percentage rates work, down payments and lenders.

These are facts from a recent Chase survey that sampled 1,098 Americans with a qualifying age of 25 – 65, with a 500-respondent oversample among those who intend to buy a home within the next 18 months. 

This same group of uninformed borrowers is ready to jump into the housing market.

According to housing’s top economists, 2015 is the year of the Millennial.

“The story about Millennials not forming households and getting into homebuying is more of a 2012 and early 2013 story,”’s chief economist Jonathan Smoke told HousingWire in his forecast for 2015 at the start of the year.

“It’s outdated. Our view of 2015 is informed by strong trends and indicators of what’s happening today with Millennials. In 2014, it’s been a banner year for employment but parsed by age groups those under 35 have been gaining jobs at a 60% faster rate than rest – one of the best years for employment was even better for Millennials,” Smoke said.

And Zillow’s (Z) 2015 forecast mostly echoed the same points.

“Roughly 42% of Millennials say they want to buy a home in the next one to five years, compared to just 31% of Generation X, and by the end of 2015 Millennials will become the largest home-buying age group,” said Stan Humphries, Zillow chief economist in his annual 2015 housing forecast. “The lack of home-buying activity from Millennials thus far is decidedly not because this generation isn’t interested in homeownership, but instead because younger Americans have been delaying getting married and having children, two key drivers in the decision to buy that first home. As this generation matures, they will become a home-buying force to be reckoned with.”

As a Millennial myself, I don’t want to completely rag on my generation, but there is a serious lack of understanding that needs to be addressed. It’s my job to know what's going on in the housing market, and I would still go talk to a few lenders before I made the leap into homeownership.

I am at the stage in my life where the majority of my friends are getting married or having babies, with both outcomes often leading to the decision to buy a home.

I’ll hear light chatter about how they want to buy a home and some seem to understand why now is a great time.

And while it is great to come to that conclusion, I would still highly encourage you to talk to a few lenders so that you can either know the options you have for buying a home now, or the steps you need to take to potentially own a home in the future.

In a recent interview with Navy Federal Credit Union’s Vice President of Mortgage Lending, Katie Miller, she explained that the biggest opportunity for purchase volume is first-time homebuyers. Since so much time has passed since the crisis, first-time buyers have moved up in their careers and are ready to put their money in an investment.

Miller encouraged potential homebuyers to take the first step of talking to their lenders and getting educated.

She said that the biggest hurdle for first-time buyers is lack of a substantial down payment. But that's a problem that a conversation with a loan officer could potentially solve.

The report from Chase is not the first one to voice that Millennials are unaware of the homebuying process.

A recent survey by ClosingCorp said that two out of every three Millennials who are planning to be homebuyers don’t know what closing costs are.

However, they're not alone in this.

The Chase survey also found that across all adult age brackets, more than one-third of potential homeowners are "Not Very" or "Not At All" aware of closing costs.

While their knowledge might not be all there, the survey explained that potential homebuyers are motivated to jump into the housing market now because of rising rental costs and historically low interest rates.

The Chase survey finds:

  • 32% want to buy soon in order to take advantage of low rates; 35% say that 30-year fixed mortgage interest rates rising above 4% would delay their decision to buy
  • 20% say the rising cost of rent — making buying a better value — is their No. 1 reason to buy
  • Equally important, 20% say the desire to make an upgrade from their current home was their top reason to buy

So I repeat the same advice. If you are at all considering buying a home, talk to several lenders so you can make an informed decision. 

Here a few additional articles that could help: “How to get a mortgage right now, even with bad credit” and “What’s the salary you need to a afford a home?”

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