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Homeownership is valued, but remains expensive and hard to attain, report says

File: A home for sale in Central Los Angeles. Christopher Okula/KPCC

Finding available and affordable housing in California is a constant battle for prospective homeowners. A survey conducted by the California Association of Realtors found that renters in the state greatly value homeownership — but they're faced with financial obstacles that prevent them from buying.

Nearly half of all renters said they hope to snag precious real estate in the future, with 10 percent saying they plan to buy within a year, the industry group's chief economist Leslie Appleton-Young told KPCC.

“There’s high value put on homeownership, but many are simply not able to achieve that because prices are so high,” she said.

Economic uncertainty, steep prices and down payments are just some of the hurdles that stop plans for homeownership, she said. Of the 28 percent of renters who don’t plan to buy in the future, 50 percent said they simply can’t afford it. Twenty percent said they prefer to rent.

Among newcomers to the market are millenials. Appleton-Young said existing notions that they don’t value homeownership are unfounded. The survey found that one in four millennial renters do want to purchase.

“That was a little bit of a surprise that the number was so high,” she said.  

Most young homeowners said they wanted to buy a big enough home to accommodate their parents. Multiple generations living in the same home is something that’s on the rise, Appleton-Young said.

She said she believes this can be attributed to cultural values among California’s diverse group of renters, and to the fact that modern home plans provide ample room to do this — with features like separate wings or dual master suites.

For those on the hunt, Appleton-Young recommends doing lots and lots of research. She said that there are more low down-payment programs than people might think.

“I think really being armed with the information of what you’re able to do and then start researching the neighborhoods that you’re interested in and arm yourself with data, history,” she said.

Patience in the competitive market is also something she advises.

“Properties are in high demand and essentially, they go very quickly and you still have a lot of competition from all-cash buyers and all-cash investors. It definitely is not impossible, but you need to arm yourself with the information,” she said.

If you don’t find what you’re looking for, that’s OK, Appleton-Young said, adding that flexibility is the third pillar of home buying.

“Know what you’re looking for, but also realize you may need to make some trade-offs to get into your first home,” she said.