- Courtesy of Sam Shwetz
- Millennials represent 36% of all homebuyers in the US today.
- A new housing community called New Haven in Ontario, California, reports a millennial homeownership rate of more than 50%.
- New Haven offers modest homes at prices from $200,000 to $500,000.
California is no paragon of affordability, particularly when it comes to housing.
In five California metro areas – including San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego – the salary needed to qualify for a mortgage to buy a median-priced home is over $100,000 a year.
Homeownership in California on a typical income isn’t feasible for many of today’s would-be buyers, at least in the state’s biggest metropolitan hubs.
In the US, millennials (generally defined as people born between 1981 and 1996) represent 36% of all homebuyers, according to the National Association of Realtors’ most recent trend report. Their median income is $88,200.
As a result, millennials who want to own homes are moving to the suburbs.
“I’ve wanted to be a homeowner for a while – it was high on my priority list,” Sam Shwetz, 25, told Business Insider.
Shwetz and his wife, Sydney, were renting in Costa Mesa, California, when they started to seriously consider becoming homeowners after Shwetz left the Army in 2016. They realized that buying in Orange County, where the median home price hovers around $714,500, was not feasible for them.
The young couple looked to the so-called Inland Empire, the large swath of desert and foothills that broadly includes Riverside and San Bernardino counties. It’s the fastest-growing US metro area as measured by the number of new millennial residents, according to data from RCLCO, a real-estate analytics company.
In a sleepy town about 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles called Ontario, a community called New Haven – part of Ontario Ranch, a sub-development spanning 8,200 acres – caught their eye.
“You have to drive through ranches and cows,” Sam Shwetz said. “It’s like, am I still in California?”
- Courtesy of Brookfield Residential
It’s remote, but that doesn’t matter. There are parks, pools, recreation centers, new shops, and schools under construction, plus some of the fastest internet speeds in Southern California.
New Haven is a gigabit community, meaning that for $60 a month, residents enjoy download speeds of 1,000 megabits per second – it takes about six seconds to download a movie. It’s great for streaming and gaming, Shwetz said.
Millennials accounted for 53% of all home sales in New Haven last year, according to Brookfield Residential, the developer and builder of the community and many others like it throughout Southern California and across the US.
For new homes, “the price range was fantastic,” Shwetz said. Townhouses, condos, and single-family homes in New Haven start in the high $200,000s and top out around $500,000 – a bargain the Shwetzes couldn’t pass up.
They both found new jobs in the area – he’s a property manager, she’s an events assistant at the local university – and last October they purchased a 1,900-square-foot home in New Haven for $445,000.
After the 20% down payment, Shwetz said, they pay about $100 more a month for their mortgage payment than they were paying to rent an 800-square-foot apartment in Costa Mesa, a short 45-minute drive away.
“It takes us less than an hour to get to the beach,” Shwetz said. And they still attend the same church in Orange County and meet up with friends there on the weekends.
- Courtesy of Brookfield Residential
Even though New Haven is a Mello-Roos district, which imposes a special tax on homeowners in new communities in California, and a $117-a-month homeowners-association fee, Shwetz said it’s worth it.
Ontario Ranch won’t be fully developed for another decade, at least, as it aims to house about 162,000 residents in 47,000 homes, with enough schools and retail and business space to accommodate. The Shwetzes are early adopters of sorts.
“It’s a trade-off – there are not a lot of amenities yet, but there are plans to do it,” Shwetz said. “In my mind, that’s why housing prices are cheap, and as they build up, housing values will go up.”
He added: “It’s a pretty screaming deal.”