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Real Estate now | SCOTT VAN VOORHIS

Will millennials kill home ownership?

Highlights from the Boston Real Estate Now blog.

Gen Xers are heading into their 40s and middle age, more often than not with mortgage in tow.

I am squarely in that demographic. At 47, I am married, with three children and a house and mortgage in Natick.

But who will we sell our homes to when it comes time to retire, or simply move up in the housing market?

The millennials are next up in the generational batting box, but right now, the numbers are not looking so good.

Just 32 percent of millennials are paying a mortgage on a house or condo, with a million fewer young owners than there were before the housing market went bust.


The jobless rate for millennials tops 16 percent, by some measures, more than double the overall, national unemployment rate.

And, as we all know, too many college graduates are exiting with student loan debt the size of a mortgage, prompting 36 percent of all recent college grads to move back in with mom and dad.

Yet millennials aren’t the first generation to face hard times.

Despite the particularly daunting challenges they face, millennials have a shot at making it into the middle class and buying a house, provided they buckle down and work hard.

The job market is slowly improving and our tech-driven economy is creating new opportunities and niches even as it shuts the door on old ones.

That’s why a new study, just released by Bentley University in Waltham, is a bit troubling.

The survey of hiring managers found three-quarters of them complaining millennials aren’t prepared for the workforce and lack that basic building block of all ambition and accomplishment — a work ethic.

Of course, older generations always love to complain and gripe about the supposedly shiftless youngsters coming up the ladder.


Gen Xers were derided as slackers by boomers, who, in turn, were ridiculed as pot-smoking hippies by the “greatest generation.” And guess what, the greatest generation wasn’t seen as any great shakes by their Depression weary parents until World War II changed everything.

Still, that’s a lot of disgruntled hiring managers.

Millennials, please, say it isn’t so.

Condo sales on the upswing

Are buyers turning to condos as they find themselves on the losing end of soaring single-family home prices?

It happened during the bubble years and in previous booms as well. And it looks like it may be happening again given the state sales stats out last week.

Massachusetts condo sales jumped more than 15 percent in December compared with the same month a year before, even as home sales slid — by just under a percent — for the fewest sales since April, Warren Group reported.

Yet even as home sales faltered, home prices rose yet again in December amid a dearth of listings, with the median sale price hitting $320,000, a 6.3 percent jump over 2012 and an increase over November as well, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors found.

And despite the stagnant sales numbers, demand still appears to be relatively strong, with the drop in sales driven by the sparse choices in the market as much as anything else.

Even as home sales stagnated in December, average days on market dropped to 99 days, down from 130 in December 2012, according to MAR.


By contrast, condo prices look a little more reasonable, though that window appears to be closing as well.

The median condo price rose 8 percent in December, to more than $305,000, MAR reports. The median condo price for all of 2013 — $300,000 — was the highest since 2004.

While generally less expensive, condos have the perception as being a riskier bet than single-family homes. There’s more price volatility with condos the poster child, at least in New England, of the devastating early-1990s real estate collapse.

Many of those who snapped up condos during the greed-is-good ’80s were stuck with them for years, unable to sell, period, let alone settling for a loss.

Developers during those heady boom times got the very dangerous idea they could turn any old building anywhere into overpriced condos and stuff their pockets with easy profits.

Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate. For the full Boston Real Estate Now blog, visit www.boston.com/realestate.