Black millennials are trying to close close the gap in homeownership

By Nicole D. Batey,
Special to the AFRO,

Millennial buyers are the primary driver of Black homeownership in the U.S. Housing market right now. Many are leaving rental life behind to purchase their first home or investment property in pursuit of having equity and building wealth.

According to estimations, there will be at least 4.5 million young people maturing into their third decade of life per year until 2025. They will reach the age at which home buying becomes an important consideration in their life choices. 

As of 2019, young Black millennials made up nearly 15.4 percent of the total Black population and 14.2 percent of the total population of young millennials in the United States. 

Findings from show that “between October 2017 and September 2018, Black millennial buyers made up 18.5 percent of Black homebuyers, and the share jumped to 22.2 percent between October 2020 and September 2021.” 

Rodney Dotson, an African-American realtor for The Mitchell Team of Sotheby’s International Realty and member of Black Luxury Agent Collective (B.L.A.C.), agrees. 

“There is a trend that I’ve been seeing among buyers,” said Dotson. “There is a greater interest among single, Black millennials, especially women, for multi-family units or investment properties.”

Dotson has been in the real estate business for nine years and said “Homebuyers are more empowered now than several generations ago and see the value in owning real estate as part of their investment portfolio.”

“They’re even purchasing houses in other states,” he said. “More and more homeowners are really investigating and doing their research on grants that help with purchasing a home. Also, banks are getting creative with down payment assistance programs. I currently have three or four buyers who are asking the question, ‘how can I make this grant money work for me, for us.’”

Dotson added, “For anyone looking to buy a house, make sure you have a good realtor– someone who’s going to really advocate for you and what you want. Also, you want to make sure you have a lender who is going to be thorough in looking at your financials and tell you what if anything you need to be in the best buying position.”

Despite the growing trend among Black millennial homebuyers, the gap between Black and White homeownership remains significantly larger than it was prior to the Fair Housing Act, according to the National Association of Realtors Policy Conference Report. White homeownership across the country is at 72 percent, while black ownership is at 42 percent.

The report goes on to note that:

  • In the 31 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), there are over 1.7 million Black millennials who would qualify for a mortgage
  • New York City, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Chicago each have more than 100,000 Black residents ready for homeownership

Millennial couple, Devon and Lauren Corbin, decided early on in their marriage that they wanted to own a home big enough for family gatherings. However, purchasing their single-detached home felt more like a rollercoaster than a dream. Corbin, a partnership manager and his wife, a lawyer, didn’t go through a first time buyer program and had no down payment assistance. Instead, they used their savings to help with closing costs.

The couple spoke with the AFRO about the experience of buying a home.

“The process was draining because– in our minds– we can afford the house. We were at that time paying a large amount in rent, so we knew we could afford a mortgage,” said Corbin.  “We didn’t think the market was going to be as bad as it was.”

“We would go every weekend from February to July 2021, looking at new property. Everyday I was on Zillow, calling my realtor to tell her about properties before she could call me about them,” said Corbin. “Sometimes we’d be the first to actually go see the house. We’d tour the house, put an offer in– sometimes $15,000 over asking price– and still not win the house.  The answer was always ‘no’ with little to no explanation of why. Sometimes the response was that we were outbid.”

Lauren Corbin witnessed the desperation of people seeking a home first hand. “People were doing crazy stuff like waiving inspections and appraisals,” she said. 

“They were buying houses as-is, sometimes sight unseen,” said her husband. “We would go to an open house on a Friday or Saturday, put an offer in on that Sunday or Monday, and have an answer by Tuesday or Wednesday.”

“We did what we could to make our offers appealing, like writing a personal letter about our family, but that didn’t work either. It’s definitely been a seller’s market,” explained Devon Corbin. “Whenever we saw a listing, we knew that we were going to have to go at least $10,000 over the asking price just to be heard. With the house we finally did get, originally we had been outbid again, however their financing fell through. So we were able to bid again and this time our offer was accepted.”

“Even our home inspector was impressed that we were able to get a house in this market, because of how competitive it’s been,” he continued.

The couple now offers practical advice to others thinking about purchasing a home. 

“Do your research, know what you really want in the area that you want to be in. It’s okay if you don’t get everything you want up front, because you can always sell and buy again,” said Corbin. “Even if no one in [your] family has ever owned a house, don’t be scared to get out there and buy one. Be strategic as possible, there are a lot of  first time homebuyer programs out there.”

The Corbins want potential homeowners to understand that the process is complex and takes dedication, but is worth it in the end.

“One of the pros for us in purchasing a house has been that we’ve been able to host family gatherings and events. We had our son’s birthday party here, we didn’t have to rent a place. Also, our home is a single detached home, so we don’t have to share walls with neighbors and worry about what’s going on to the left or right of us.”

Corbin said that having plenty of space and the freedom to make changes to their property is a plus. 

“We don’t have to ask permission about changing a wall color or mounting a television. We live in a very diverse neighborhood in Baltimore County. We have Black neighbors to our right and White neighbors to our left. An Asian guy who lived across the street from us just recently sold his house in two days.”

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