11/21/2012 09:23 EST | Updated 12/12/2012 11:19 EST

Millennials Want To Buy Real Estate Despite Obstacles: Survey

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The vast majority of millennials value homeownership and want to buy a home, but they are less certain on where they want to live and whether they will ever be able to afford it, a new survey indicates.

The poll, done exclusively for The Huffington Post Canada by Abacus Data, found 73 per cent of millennials who currently rent or live at home want to own a house or condo before reaching the age of 31, and 85 per cent feel it is somewhat or very important to own their own home one day.

As respondents age, and expectations meet reality, the importance of owning a home diminishes.

The poll, conducted between Oct. 23 and 25, surveyed 1,004 Canadian millennials between the ages of 18 and 30.

Forty-nine per cent of non-homeowners rank the high cost of purchasing as the primary obstacle to buying a house, while 27 per cent feel too much personal and student debt is the main issue. High minimum down payments are also seen as a major issue.

"Owning our own home is very important to most Millennials in Canada. But higher student debt levels, sky-high housing prices and changes to mortgage rules, make that dream much harder to achieve" said Abacus CEO David Coletto. "What happens when Baby Boomers want to sell their homes to downsize and no one is there to buy them because few have the down payment or mortgage available to buy them?"

Nevertheless, optimism is relatively high among millennials: 71 per cent consider it somewhat or very likely they will be able to buy a home before reaching the age of 31, compared with 22 per cent who think it is unlikely.

Among those aged 21-23, 76 per cent believe they will be able to buy a home. But that optimism decreases as respondents get older — only 48 per cent of those between the ages of 28 and 30 who are not already homeowners feel it is somewhat or very likely they will be able to make the purchase before turning 31.

When it comes to where millennials want to live, opinion is divided. Generally speaking, larger houses can be found in the suburbs and the country, while smaller houses are closer to services. By a slim ratio millennials prefer houses that are comfortable and spacious to those within walking distance of services — 54 per cent to 46 per cent. The only region of the country not to prefer larger homes is Ontario (again by a slim ratio). Men are more likely than women to want services nearby, while married millennials overwhelmingly express a preference for comfortable and spacious homes for what one can assume are their growing families.

More specifically, 42 per cent of millennials would rather live in a suburb close to a city while another 34 per cent would rather live downtown. Only one in four prefer to live in the country. Although there were no large regional variations in the survey, Atlantic Canadians are more likely to choose the country over the city. The suburbs are favoured by Ontarians, Quebecers and British Columbians. And immigrant millennials are more likely to prefer the suburbs than native-born Canadians, but only one in eight are fans of the country.

In sum, millennials want to own homes that are comfortable and spacious and located in urban centres but not necessarily downtown. Not coincidentally, the suburbs are the fastest growing parts of Canada. Nevertheless, a large proportion of millennials value urban living and easy access to amenities.

If the survey is correct, is seems the urban and suburban housing markets are unlikely to collapse any time soon.

— Abacus Data has focused research on the Canadian Millennial. Read more here.

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