Gen Z Woman's Viral Response to Boomers Who Say She Can Buy House for $250K

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The search for a starter home has for some time been igniting generational divides between those in Generation Z, who are often first-time buyers, and those who purchased their first home in a different economic landscape.

The discussion on housing affordability has left many in their mid-20s and younger feeling exasperated by their perceived belief that older generations can’t quite grasp what they’re up against while trying to get their feet on the property ladder.

When Mai McConnell, a 27-year-old pharmaceutical marketer from New Jersey, shared her frustrating home shopping experience on TikTok, she struck a chord with many in her generation who feel the same way.

McConnell found herself tasked with finding a “starter home” for $250,000 or less after feeling put up to the challenge by baby boomers who have repeatedly told her to either save up for longer or purchase a property on the lower end of the housing price scale.

Her quick search on a real estate listing website unearthed a mold-infested townhouse that she labeled “a literal biohazard” in the now-viral clip. Her video, which has gathered over 545,000 views since it was posted on April 16, highlights a stark reality facing many young Americans today—the daunting challenge of entering the housing market.

McConnell’s predicament is not unique in today’s economic climate.

“After telling family members that the homes in our area are $600,000 or more, they told me that I should be getting a ‘starter home’ for $250,000 or less,” McConnell told Newsweek.

“In the video, you can see that I found the only house within a commutable distance of my job, in the borough of Middlesex, in that price range. The property is a mold-infested, badly maintained townhouse,” the marketer, who is newly engaged, said.

Mai McConnell and the house she found for sale in New Jersey for $250,000. The 27-year-old had been challenged to find an affordable house by boomers.
Mai McConnell and the house she found for sale in New Jersey for $250,000. The 27-year-old had been challenged to find an affordable house by boomers.

“I wanted to share this online as an example of why people my age can’t ‘just get up and buy a house’ and how out of touch some people in older generations are. But, I didn’t expect the video to pick up like it did! I’m glad it has because more people need to understand how insane and hard the market is for first-time buyers right now,” she added.

McConnell could be heard calling the paneled Middlesex townhouse “a literal biohazard” while viewers caught a glimpse at its derelict interior complete with crumbling, mold-ridden walls.

The gap between generational perceptions of what is affordable and the reality of the housing market today has become a contentious issue, which occasionally spills into the digital world. At the time of her video, the property she had found was on the market for $244,000.

Gen Z v. the U.S. Housing Market

Some baby boomers—people born between 1946 and 1964—suggest that younger generations could own a home if they simply saved enough money, not acknowledging the significant changes in market dynamics and price inflation over the decades.

The United States is grappling with a persistent cost-of-living crisis, and many American families have found themselves caught in an economic whirlwind that threatens the very essence of the American Dream.

The squeeze is marked by stagnant wage growth, even as inflation has slowed following its 2022 peak. It has pushed millions to the brink, compelling them to rethink their financial strategies and question the sustainability of their current living standards—not to mention their present ability to source a down payment for a home.

Around 60 percent of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, and the relentless rise in rent costs has become an added challenge.

I wanted to share this online as an example of why people my age can’t just get up and buy a house

Maureen McDermut, a realtor with Sotheby’s International in Montecito with over 20 years of experience in the field, acknowledges the sharp rise in home prices and how they’re now facing the generation most keen to secure somewhere to live.

“Homes are without a doubt increasing in value in the U.S.,” McDermut told Newsweek.

“Price appreciation has actually accelerated in the past four years, which means not only are homes more expensive, they’re becoming more expensive at a faster rate.”

“Even when adjusting for inflation, homes are still more expensive today than they have been in previous decades. But while it was easier to qualify for a mortgage in the 1990s and 2000s, we saw how that led to a major economic collapse in 2008,” she added.

The realtor says that it’s not impossible for Gen Zers to purchase a home, but “it is harder” due to factors like historically low inventory alongside high house prices. Still, she’s optimistic for the younger generations who are keen to get a foot on the property ladder.

“It might be harder to buy a home, but if it’s a goal, then there are ways to get there,” she said.

CoreLogic’s chief economist, Dr. Selma Hepp, agrees that low inventory, high prices and high demand have exacerbated this difficulty.

“Home prices increased again this March beyond the typical seasonal uptick, despite mortgage rates reaching this year’s high,” Hepp told Newsweek.

“The surging cost of homeownership, further fueled by rising insurance and tax expenses, continues to keep many prospective buyers on the sidelines.”

The challenges are compounded by a significant depreciation of the dollar’s purchasing power, which private equity real estate fund manager Grant Cardone highlights.

“Just since 2020, the U.S. dollar has lost 25 percent of its purchasing power, and in the same four years, home prices went up 28 percent,” Cardone told Newsweek.

The fund manager also pointed to several factors driving up housing costs, including a national shortage of homes and rising construction costs. To help Gen Z get on the ladder, Cardone suggests that a shift in lifestyle preferences may influence the homebuying decisions of younger generations.

“It appears they would rather use things than own them, which is proven by how they use Uber for transportation and how they use high-end rentals, so the question is whether Gen Zers really want to own a home. Perhaps the future is geared towards owning nothing and being happy about that,” he said.

“If they do, most Gen Zers qualify for a 30-year mortgage, which costs on average $3,800 a month, and that’s with putting $100,000 down. Mortgage payments are now double what the rental prices are, which is the biggest gap between homeownership and rents in history.”

Those trying to get on the property ladder, like McConnell, voiced their sympathy and similar experiences in the discourse under her post. Some users expressed similar frustration with the older generation’s perceived detachment from the current economic realities.

“My dad told me that my $400,000 budget was crazy and I needed to find a starter home. Sir, that is starter home prices in most areas,” one viewer commented.

Another wrote, “If I put a ‘under $300,000’ filter on in my area it just shows me vacant land.”

As the debate continues, it is clear that what was once considered a ‘starter home’ is no longer within reach for many young Americans without substantial financial compromise.

Cardone told Newsweek: “Home prices on the surface appear to have exploded in America, even doubling just since the pandemic and up eight times since the 1970s.”

“A little closer look at the prices of the American Dream from an investor’s eyes can be more revealing. In 1950 the average home was $7,900. When adjusted for inflation that is $79,000 compared to $480,000 for the average home in America today. That is a seven times appreciation in the same dollars over 70 years.”

“There are a number of culprits as to the cause; firstly, a shortage of four million homes, secondly, the cost of construction, thirdly, regulation, and lastly, investors buying homes and converting to rentals,” he added.

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Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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