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There’s a roadblock on the path to homeownership that is severely delaying and limiting consumers who wish to buy a home, and that’s personal debt. But the market shows consumers are adapting.

From credit cards to student loans to medical bills, today’s consumers struggle to save for a down payment, get approved for a mortgage or buy within their preferred timeline because of financial burdens. They are, however, getting crafty in order to navigate these challenges. Zillow reported these findings, and more, in its recently-released 2019 Consumer Housing Trends Report.

Renters hoping to jump to homeownership are at a standstill, with over two-thirds in debt. Thirty-nine percent were rejected by a mortgage lender or landlord because of medical debt, while 26 percent and 24 percent experienced denial due to credit card and student loan debt, respectively.

For those that get past the down payment hurdle, the financial scenario means cutting back. Trouble saving up for a substantial deposit often leads to higher monthly costs, and, in effect, significant lifestyle changes. Zillow reports that 68 percent of buyers who are in debt made at least one financial sacrifice to purchase their home, and often reduced spending on entertainment- and vacation-related outings, as well as on technology.

High debt loads are also keeping buyers from purchasing the home of their dreams. To stay within budget, they often have to sacrifice some of their wants to be able to afford the home. For example, 22 percent of first-time buyers purchased a home without their desired finishes, 21 percent bought smaller than they’d like, 21 percent bought places with increased commutes than originally anticipated and 15 percent purchased property that is in worse condition than they initially planned.

“When we focus on low unemployment and the strong economy, we often forget that in many ways the rising costs of life can erode most of those gains,” said Skylar Olsen, director of Economic Research at Zillow, in a statement. “Healthcare has never been more expensive. Getting a college degree, a path more likely to lead to economic success for those able to get through it, has never been more expensive. U.S. housing values and rents have never been more expensive. While incomes, both at the high and low end, are growing, the pace hasn’t kept up with those crucial life expenses. That’s fact and Americans are feeling it.”

Renters and buyers aren’t the only ones adapting to the market. Sellers are taking on a different role today. Zillow says a new trend is making its way into real estate—”Do Some of It Yourself”—in which sellers are taking on tasks typically handled by their real estate agents. According to the report, 50 percent of sellers are making improvements to their properties before engaging with an agent, and 39 percent are coming up with their own listing price. Meanwhile, 25 percent are going ahead with a pre-list home inspection.

Those tasks that require more industry expertise and knowledge, however, are still largely being handled by agents. For example, most sellers are staying away from conducting buyer tours and doing their own social media marketing (with only 17 percent and 8 percent of respective sellers tackling those activities themselves).

While an upcoming shift may be in the cards, says Zillow, consumers are currently adapting to nationwide inventory shortages and increasing home prices. Despite market challenges, buyers and sellers are looking for ways to transact, even if it means compromising.

To view the entire report, visit

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at