For generations, homeownership has been regarded as a major end-goal in most people’s lives. Buying a house to call one’s own not only creates a sense of security, but also of maturity and accomplishment. Sadly, that accomplishment is becoming an increasingly rare one.
Of all age demographics in the U.S., millennials show the lowest rate of homeownership. And it’s not because they don’t desire it. Hobbled by student debt, a job market in flux, and lingering fallout from the Great Recession of 2008, many young people today feel like they don’t even know how to buy a home, never mind believe they could ever afford one.
Fortunately, while millennials have experienced major setbacks, they’ve also developed their own secret weapons thanks to the one-two punch of a burgeoning technical revolution and the ingenuity of fresh-faced, outside-the-box thinking.
Here are three of the best financial tools helping a new generation achieve the not-so-impossible goal of homeownership.
Since its 2009 acquisition by Intuit (the company behind TurboTax), Mint has become one of the most popular finance-tracking services on the market. Designed to be accessible to anyone regardless of experience, the Mint app allows users to create budgets with specific goals, sort and schedule bill payments, and even get a free credit score. By linking the app to one’s bank, loan, investment, and credit card accounts, Mint not only helps organize users’ finances and show just how much they’re spending on what (the app automatically sorts payments they’ve made into such categories as “Entertainment” and “Food & Dining”), it is also able to suggest money-saving tips based on an individual user’s purchase history.
One of the biggest success stories of the internet age is the rise of crowdfunding services like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and GoFundMe, which allow users to create fundraising campaigns that help them achieve their goals. HomeFundIt (formerly HomeFundMe) is a variation on the idea geared specifically towards helping prospective homeowners raise the money they need to make their down payment. Additionally, users can choose to make use of it, a cashback program wherein a percentage of qualifying purchases made at select retail partners are placed in the users’ home savings account.
Unison is a company with a very unusual business model that could be just what the doctor ordered for prospective homeowners confident that their present thriftiness foreshadows future success. For buyers struggling to afford their down payment, Unison will split the cost 50-50 in exchange for a stake in the purchased property (usually around 35%). That means that whenever the homeowners put that property up for sale again, they will return to Unison whatever amount the company originally lent them, plus a percentage of however much the house sells for. Notable is the fact that the stake remains the same regardless of whether the property’s value goes up or down, making Unison not just a lender but a legitimate partner.