Young people buying homes in St. Lucie County

Lauren and Michael Kleiman were newly married, ready for a child, and recent graduates just starting their careers when they decided to stop renting in Margate and buy a house on the Treasure Coast.

She was 28 and he was 33 when they closed on a newly built, three-bedroom house in Port St. Lucie in December 2022 — thanks to a federal student loan moratorium that allowed millennials to save for a down payment.

“We knew we were getting ready to start a family and we were completely settled in our careers,” Lauren said in a virtual interview in August, with Michael and their 4-month-old by her side.

The Kleiman family is among many South Floridians who have moved to the Treasure Coast in search of jobs and the relative affordability of homes compared to larger metro areas like Miami and Palm Beach. They are also among the growing number of young, first-time homebuyers, despite the high costs in the booming market.

Millennial homeownership

In the United States for the first time, a majority of millennials are now homeowners, according to a study by Rent Cafe released in April. Millennials’ home ownership has doubled in the past five years to 52% of ownership versus rent, outpacing baby boomers and Generation X, according to the report, which analyzed data for the 110 largest metro areas.

The top destinations for homebuyers between March 2020 and February 2022 were more affordable inland and southern shore markets like Port St. Lucie, a trend that continues, according to a June 2022 Freddie Mac study. Port St. Lucie: • Ranks eighth in the U.S. for immigration Cities, according to a Freddie Mac study. • It ranks fourth for first-time homebuyers and second for those settling in mid-sized cities, according to a July study by WalletHub. It has a homeownership rate of 60% for people under 35 — the highest of the 100 cities analysed, though it’s not the most affordable in its size category, according to a June study by the This Old House Reviews team.

Federal student loan payments

The Kleiman family married in January 2021, during the outbreak of the Corona virus pandemic when no one was able to attend the ceremony. By late last year, both had begun to settle into their careers.

After receiving her doctorate in integrative biology from Florida Atlantic University in August 2022, Lauren took a position as a research associate at the nonprofit Ocean Research and Conservation Society in Vero Beach, where she needs to work in the lab every day. Michael, who holds a doctorate in experimental psychology from Florida Atlantic University, can work remotely as a research assistant professor at the University of Miami in the Department of Neuroscience.

It seemed like a good time to invest in a home because in March 2020, federal student loan payments were paused and the interest rate was 0% as a coronavirus relief program.

“I literally took all the money — about a thousand a month — and put it into savings,” Michael said. Lauren did the same.

In Florida, 2.7 million student loan borrowers like the Kleimans owed a total of $105.5 billion in March 2023, according to Federal Student Aid. In the United States, the debt reached $1.6 trillion.

As student loans and interest rates resume in October, the Kleiman family is worried about how they will pay for child care and continue saving money. However, they are grateful for their new life.

“The pandemic was clearly not a good thing that happened,” Michael said. “But it allowed us to save a significant amount of money on the house.”

Rent increases in Florida

High rental prices and a shortage of affordable housing in South Florida are also driving newcomers to the Treasure Coast.

Rents in Florida have risen due to continued immigration, hybrid employment options, and a scarcity of affordable housing, according to a Florida Atlantic University study published in July.

About 41% of Florida counties — 28 out of 67 counties, including St. Lucie — were severely rent burdened from 2017 to 2021, according to a June 2022 rental market survey prepared by the University of Florida’s Shimberg Center for Housing Studies for Florida Housing Finance. . a company

Dasile Cruz, 48, and her husband, 44, were forced to leave their 800-square-foot apartment in Miami, where they had lived for eight years, when their landlord raised the rent from $1,300 to $2,300.

House hunting became frustrating for Cruz, a remote nonprofit worker, and her husband, a construction worker, because they were always being outbid, even in Port St. Lucie, she said.

In June, they began the purchase — sight unseen — of a newly built, $349,900 three-bedroom home in Fort Pierce, thanks to a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan program that requires only a 3.5% down payment for those who qualify first. Home buyers time. They expect to close in late September.

“We didn’t even visit the house,” Cruz said. “I would rather put $2,300 of monthly rent into my house than give it to someone else.”

“Toxic” rental conditions prompted Tyler Simmons, a 30-year-old construction worker, to buy a three-bedroom home in Fort Pierce in March for $220,000. He lived with his family and friends, but felt ready to buy his own home after receiving a pay rise early this year.

Many of the homes he viewed were in poor condition, including the one he bought, which had water damage, rotting tiles, crumbling cabinets and old popcorn ceilings.

“I didn’t get the house because of its condition. I got it because I could see its potential,” he said, adding that he had been fixing up the house hours after work for weeks. “It was the best home I could find in the area in my price range.”

Now he feels happy and stable.

Ananya Tiwari is a business reporter at TCPalm. You can contact her at Or follow her on X in @anayati.

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