Oldies, it's your fault millennials are buying their first houses at later ages

29 July 2018 - 00:00
A 1954 Jaguar outside Palace House, Beaulieu, can be nothing more than a dream for millennials.
A 1954 Jaguar outside Palace House, Beaulieu, can be nothing more than a dream for millennials.
Image: Gallo/Getty Images

Spend some time online and you'll discover that millennials apparently do just about everything worse than their predecessors. They get married later, can't stay in jobs as long, have a greater sense of "entitlement" and cannot socialise as well as their parents and grandparents. Hell, they cannot even do sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll as well as their Gen-X elders.

Now the latest brick in the house that millennial hysteria built is that we are buying homes later than our antecedents. According to Bloomberg, TimesLIVE and just about everyone else peddling millennial anxiety, first-time homeowners are getting steadily older and millennials are waiting longer to buy property.

The estimated average age for buying one's first home has risen from 40 to 44

An FNB housing barometer released earlier this year found that the estimated average age for buying one's first home has risen from 40 to 44.

Speaking to TimesLIVE, the bank's household and property strategist John Loos says: "Part of this is perhaps explained by weak economic times in recent years, which limits job creation and thus the pace at which young working-age people enter the labour market and thus the property market."

The problem is that the economy sucks.


Complain about millennials all you want but the simple truth is that previous generations screwed the pooch on this one. Speak to most pre-millennials about house prices and they will spin you delicious yarns about how back in their day, a decent house cost a few hundred thousand rand and came with a garden. For a few extra bucks you could throw in a landscape practitioner and boom, St Peter Golding has granted you access to home- owning heaven.

Try finding a nice house with a garden, in a decent area for a few hundred thousand rand in 2018 and you're likely to end up living in Graaff-Reinet.

Sadly, Generation Y doesn't live in that world. We live in a world where people raised on The Clash believe that working yourself into a nervous breakdown in return for rent and drinking money is what constitutes industriousness.

Hence our predecessors are quick to complain that millennials are lazy and entitled when we decide that the only way you are going to work us into a lifetime of therapy sessions is if we are fairly compensated and a failure to do so will result in us simply taking our talents elsewhere.

Then there is the small matter of the economy our elders ruined.

Home ownership is also not just a simple question of calling up your local bank, getting a chunk of money and doing an EFT. There are all manner of unknown costs that need to be factored in and for many millennials, a lack of education about these costs is a major obstacle.

"I'm not a homeowner but there are things I would like to know before buying a home that I think they should have taught in school. Things like how do you even apply for a home loan? What is the process? How do you know how much you are able to take out and how is your mortgage calculated?" says Nyasha*, a 29-year-old who works in advertising.

Then there are also questions of transfer duties, legal fees, insurance and lawyer fees ad infinitum. A lot of millennials simply don't know just how onerous buying a home can be and are not particularly keen on blindly saddling themselves with decades of more debt. Because houses cost the Earth and a couple of small moons.


For those who can and are looking to get into the home-ownership game, the question of what a starter home in 2018 looks like and what the pros and cons of joining the property club are loom large.

Steven Bolleurs, a home-owning 30-year-old who works in finance, extols the benefits of home ownership, saying: "[I decided to buy a home for] the numbers. To stay where I am now, I would have to pay the same rent as for my bond and wouldn't have gotten any capital appreciation or made a dent on the bond."

Obviously, what you buy as a starter home will depend on where it is and how much you can afford, but as a general rule it is likely to be something realtors would describe as "cosy", especially if you are looking to buy in certain parts of Johannesburg or Cape Town.

If you are able to make the investment, however, then best do it and do it while you are still a spring chicken as the benefits can be delicious should you choose correctly.

"Area is key. [The value of] my place has gone up at twice the average rate in Joburg," says Bolleurs.


When speaking about things like climate change, people often invoke images of the potential world we are leaving for future generations should we not change our behaviour. This kind of thinking can often feel as if the problem is some kind of distant menace, a bridge to be crossed at a later stage.

As with many things to which older generations attribute the faults of millennials, the problem our generation faces as it relates to housing was created by our forebears. Their houses were cheaper, their salaries were higher in a relative sense and they were beneficiaries of a booming economy that tanked thanks to their malfeasance.

This is not a millennial cry of "woe is me!" but rather an acceptance of the facts on the ground. Those facts are we are less capable of home ownership at a young age than previous generations and are simply waiting until we can afford to buy a house. Parents, remember that the next time you sit your adult children down to harass them about how at their age you had this, that and the other.

* Not her real name.