Juanetta Brown-Vasquez walks the grounds of the Reserve at South River Gardens every day. Despite the new 69-home subdivision only being half-full with residents, she knows the people who will be filling the lots with homes still being built. While walking down the center of the street she pointed at the house and described the future residents by name. Most of them are millennials by her count. 

“More and more every day,” Brown-Vasquez, the on-site advisor for new homes for Rockhaven Homes, an Atlanta-based home builder, said of homeowners between the ages of 27 to 42 that are buying homes at Reserve at South River Gardens.  

According to a new study conducted by RentCafe, a nationwide apartment listing service, the majority of the Atlanta metro area’s millennial population has achieved homeownership.

Approximately 60% of the city’s millennials now own homes, with the generation seeing an increase in homeownership of about 129% over the past five years. This growth ranks the Atlanta metro area 21st in positive homeownership change among millennials, trailing behind other major cities and Top-30 metro areas like Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Portland, Oregon.

Asked why she thinks there are so many millennial homebuyers in Atlanta, Brown-Vasquez said, “It’s because they don’t want to rent.” 

The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Atlanta is just under $1,900 per month, according to RentCafe.

A home with orange and blue balloons and an 'under contract' sign in the front yard.
A home in a South Atlanta subdivision, Reserve at South River Gardens, is now under contract by a millennial couple. Credit: Donnell Suggs / The Atlanta Voice

Trending for a good reason

Atlanta’s data follows the national trend of millennial homeownership. Just over half of millennials nationwide have reached the milestone, while the Atlanta metro area has witnessed a near 30% decrease in millennial renters since 2017.

Millennials, whose ages range from 27 to 42 in 2023, have long struggled to obtain homeownership, being the generation bearing the brunt of the financial impact of the 2008 recession.

According to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the crisis influenced many from the generation, who were in their late teens or 20s at the time, to delay major milestones in life, like marriage, starting a family and buying a house. Millennials also accumulated greater student loan debt on average compared to generations before, while entering a workforce lacking entry-level opportunities for recent college graduates.

In contrast, RentCafe states that millennials across the country witnessed record levels of financial prosperity since 2017, prompting them to pursue and obtain homeownership later in life. The study credits three external factors for propelling the generation to a state of greater financial security, starting with higher wages.

A home at the corner of Lethea Street, SE and Jonesboro Road. Atlanta millennial homeownership now exceeds 50% per a new study.
Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

Banner year financially

Millennials earned a median income of $108,000 last year, the highest median income in the generation’s history. This jump in pay also served as the highest income increase for any generation over the course of the past five years, approaching 50%.

Additionally, many millennials moved in with family for the most financially-devastating months of the pandemic, thus saving money on what would have been spent on lofty rent and utility payments had they continued living alone or with roommates. Some from the age group also received assistance from parents or extended family in making a down payment on a home.

Generation Z is keeping pace

Another age group in which RentCafe noticed considerable change across the board is Generation Z, or Zoomers, who are now reaching the ideal age to begin renting property or even purchasing their first home. According to the study, Atlanta witnessed a spike in rentership among members of Gen Z, with the metro area seeing an increase upwards of 250% since 2017. Gen Z was the only generation to see an increase in renters over the past five years.

Interestingly, Generation Z also made an impact nationwide in terms of homeownership, with the group sparking a 455% increase in the category. This surge was reflected in Atlanta, as well, as the city saw an increase in Gen Z homeownership of 254%.

A home under construction in South Atlanta. while the Atlanta metro area has witnessed a near 30% decrease in millennial renters since 2017. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

Despite impressive levels of growth, the millennial generation is still bested by baby boomers in the city, who, at approximately 81%, have the highest rate of homeownership for their respective generation in the metro Atlanta area.

Brown-Vasquez wrapped orange and blue balloons around the pillars in front of a home that was recently purchased by a millennial couple. She explained that they were in the military and having a baby in a couple months. “There are IT techs, medical personnel, city employees, active military and they are putting like 15% down on their homes,” she said. 

Atlanta’s millennials are buying homes at the highest rate of homeownership for their respective generation. Brown-Vasquez recalled a new homeowner, a young, single male, telling her he moved back in with his mother in order to save six months of salary for his down payment.

“It’s going to be another three months until his home is built so he’ll have even more time to save,” she said.

Additional reporting done by Donnell Suggs