According to a recent article in The Miami Herald, many Miami locals are leaving because the housing market has become too expensive (HERALD ARTICLE). And, it’s true. Housing prices are rising and wages are not. This alone is enough to push people away from homeownership.
But, if you really think about it, maybe these “forces” aren’t as strong as we think they are, and it’s more about the choices that we (as Miami locals) are making. One thing that you can say about Miamians is that we are about the party lifestyle. And, as I write this, hundreds and even thousands of people are gearing up for the next three days in Downtown Miami at Ultra Music Festival. You’re probably saying, what does Ultra have to do with the housing market? Bear with me. Let’s look at the numbers.
The median income in Miami-Dade County is $44,000. That’s not a lot. But if you’re reading this article, chances are, you’re making more than $44,000. But, at $44,000 with steady employment history and decent credit you can only afford a house that is $180,000. And there’s no way you find a house in Miami for $180,000, right? You can, but nowhere near any place that a self-respecting millennial would want to live.
It wouldn’t be flashy enough. It wouldn’t be nice enough. It would be too far from Wynwood, or the beach, where we hang out. We convince ourselves that it would be a “bad” neighborhood. And, instead, we pay rent to live downtown, Brickell, or South Beach. And, we do that for a few years, and we buy a nice car, because you CAN’T live in Miami without a [nice] car. But, while we are renting we are making our landlord rich, and the car we bought just increased our debt ratio, which is already skewed because of student loans. And, when you factor in lack of a savings account , it only complicates the matter.
You’re probably thinking, $180,000 is still a long way from the median home price of $321,000. So, who can afford that? To qualify for a $321,000 house, one would need to make roughly $75,000 annually. But, let’s think of the person who makes $75,000 in Miami; because, remember, context is everything. Where does that person live? How much are they paying in rent? What kind of car do they drive? How much credit card debt are they carrying?
In Miami, we tend to “wear our salaries”. Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, households in the South Florida area spend an average of 43.8% of their income on discretionary expenses. That car you HAD to get, 18.1% of your income. Those fancy dinners and expensive trips to Whole Foods, 13.8% of your income. We get a promotion, we buy a new car. We get a bonus, we pop bottles in the club. We have designer watches, clothes, purses, and shoes; none of which are increasing our net worth.
They say that discipline is choosing what you want most over what you want now. And above all, in Miami at least, it seems that the path to homeownership is headed in the opposite direction of everything that makes Miami, well, Miami. Here in Miami, we spend our peak earning years partying and making other people wealthy while we continue to rent and blame the system for being stacked against us. Maybe the locals who are leaving figured out that the only way to get ahead is to leave the party lifestyle behind for quieter pastures. Let’s hope not, or Spanish won’t be the last language I must learn to conduct real estate transactions.
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