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Millennials Love Zillow Because They’ll Never Own a Home

Real estate apps and Instagram accounts have become a digital fantasyland for broke millennials

Angela Lashbrook
OneZero
Published in
7 min readJan 22, 2020

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Photo: Corcoran/Zillow

TThe apartment I found on Zillow has cornflower blue walls and original details, with crown molding still intact — a rarity among today’s bleached and flavorless condo renovations. It has picture windows and a functional fireplace, and it’s only a couple blocks from Prospect Park. It isn’t perfect; the kitchen is mismatched and hideous, and the second of the two bedrooms is minuscule, little more than a walk-in closet with a window. But it’s big enough for a small child, and the place is charming, well-cared-for, and modestly sized without being a grim shoebox.

It would be perfect for my husband and me and our dog and even a kid if we decided to have one. I can envision our bed frame and the little armchair in the bedroom next to the window and my favorite of the framed art we own in the dining area. I imagine how I would renovate the kitchen, replacing the metallic backsplash with sunny yellow tile, installing old-fashioned cabinets and a checkered floor.

But the apartment costs $850,000, not including homeowners association fees ($570), home insurance ($298), and property taxes ($460). The total monthly cost, according to Zillow, would be $4,546. A 20% down payment would be $170,000; a lower down payment, while possible, would carry with it mortgage insurance and, likely, higher interest.

Despite the apartment’s humble size and middle-class appearance, owning it is an impossibility. A daydream, nothing more. Millennials are less likely to buy a home than previous generations were between the ages of 25 and 39, and it isn’t because we don’t want to. Research shows that we do.

But as homeownership becomes less of a reality and more of an illusion, many of us resort to merely imagining ourselves in our own homes via the internet. Websites like Zillow, StreetEasy, and Realtor.com or real estate-dedicated Instagram accounts like @circahouses or @cheapoldhouses allow many of us to daydream about the security and stability that we could have if we could buy a home. Meanwhile, we’re stuck renting, which, even with a decent…

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Angela Lashbrook
OneZero

I’m a columnist for OneZero, where I write about the intersection of health & tech. Also seen at Elemental, The Atlantic, VICE, and Vox. Brooklyn, NY.