• The median price of a 20 percent down payment for a starter home in the San Francisco metro is $142,800.
  • Millennials in SF believe a down payment is $69,650, a difference of 105 percent.
  • It will take millennial homebuyers in San Francisco about 27.8 years to save up enough for a down payment.

Apartment List recently conducted a survey of more than 30,000 renters across the United States, asking questions about their plans for homeownership, affordability, and savings for a down payment.

Our research indicates that the vast majority of millennial renters (79 percent) want to purchase a home, but that affordability is the biggest obstacle that they face. You can see our national report (with data for 93 metros and 130 U.S. cities) at this link.

Today, we dive into the results for the San Francisco Bay Area specifically.

Are millennials planning to buy a home soon? SF plans for homeownership 2

In the San Francisco metro, 76 percent of survey respondents do want to purchase a home. Of these, an equal percentage of renters (37 percent) plan to purchase 3 to 5 years from now or 5+ years from now. 

In contrast, 40% of millennials in the Los Angeles metro are waiting 5+ years to buy, and in Sacramento 44 percent of millennials are waiting 5+ years to buy. 

Affordability poses the biggest obstacle to homeownership

SF why waiting to buy

The biggest obstacle for San Francisco millennials wanting to buy a home is affordability, with 81 percent of respondents listing it as a reason for delaying homeownership. In contrast, only 41 percent said that they were not ready to settle down, and 37 percent were waiting to be married.

For those who expect to always rent in the SF Bay Area, affordability was the no. 1 reason they said they would do so. 

SF millennials underestimate down payment costs

expectations vs reality

To compare millennial expectations for the cost of a down payment with reality, we asked them how much they expected to need for their own down payment. The median price of a 20 percent down payment for a starter home in the San Francisco metro is $142,800, and the average millennial expectation of how much they need for a down payment is $69,650 – a difference of 105 percent.


This is not surprising, given that most of the nation’s millennials underestimate their down payment costs as well. However, San Francisco millennials’ expectations for a down payment cost are off track by a larger percentage than any other metro in the country which we surveyed. 

How long does it take to save for a down payment?

years needed for downpayment

In order to determine how long millennial renters will need to save for a down payment, we also asked them the following questions:

  • How much have you saved for a down payment so far?
  • How much help (e.g., from family) will you be receiving for a down payment?
  • How much of your monthly income do you put towards saving for a down payment?

This allowed us to estimate how many years it will take them to save enough for a 20 percent down payment on a home. At the current savings rate in the San Francisco metro, it will take millennial homebuyers about 27.8 years to save up enough for a down payment.

This compares to 26.9 years in Sacramento, 20 years in Los Angeles, and 18.5 years in San Diego. 

Overall, millennials in the San Francisco metro face affordability as their biggest obstacle in homebuying, and rightfully so. No other U.S. metro that we surveyed has a higher amount for a standard down payment, and no other U.S. metro we surveyed has such a large discrepancy between expected vs. real amount needed for this down payment.

Whether or not San Francisco millennials will actually be able to buy a home when the time comes remains to be answered; until then, if they are committed to living in the Bay Area, renting will have to do!

Yuki Graviet Knapp is a Content Marketing Associate with the Growth Team at Apartment List and is a resident of the Bay Area. 

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