VIDEO: Millennials prioritize mortgage over marriage

By Beth Lawrence

“First comes love. Then comes marriage.” But for many young adults, that old saying may no longer be true. What comes after love might be a house.

A new study by the financial brokerage firm Redfin shows that 38 percent of millennials – the generation born between 1980 and 2000 — would put off marriage or a honeymoon in order to finance a mortgage.

And with the average cost of the American wedding hitting its highest number ever in 2014—$29,858 according to—it’s not surprising that the current generation is choosing a more frugal approach.

Geena Sondy and David Kotas, a millennial couple in Chicago, recently bought a home together, and they’re choosing to forgo marriage completely.

“Getting a mortgage with someone is a bigger commitment than getting married,” Sondy said. “There’s way more paperwork and logistics involved if something were to go wrong, so I don’t think we would’ve made that commitment not having considered those repercussions if something went badly.”

Redfin real estate agent Clayton Jirak says most of his millennial clients who make this decision do so for similar reasons.

“A lot of my clients are running the numbers. They might be paying $1500 or $1600 dollars for a two bedroom in Lincoln Square and they realize that if they buy a two bedroom, two bath condo, it might be somewhere in the range of $1200 to $1300. And they’re building equity, and they’re gaining market value.”

Jirak also says that putting money into a home and a wedding at the same time is too big a cost for many millennials.

“Many of my clients are choosing to buy a house, maybe with a lower down payment, due to financial constraints like saving for a wedding,” he said. “In return they’re also getting very good interest rates, which I think is a contributing facto to millennial couples purchasing homes prior to getting married.”

Geena Sondy and David Kotas at the home they purchased together. Beth Lawrence/MEDILL

Jirak also said America’s Great Recession from 2007 to 2009 might have had an impact on the marriage rate. According to a study by the Population Reference Bureau, marriage rates were dropping for years until the Great Recession accelerated the process.

Sondy and Kotas say it just made financial sense for them to buy a home together when they did, and most people are accepting of their arrangement when they tell them about it.

“We’ve been together for so long,” Sondy said. We’ve been living together for about two years at this point. I don’t feel like getting married would really change our daily life.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 percent of couples who live together before marriage break up by the third year. However, more and more millennials are choosing to focus on the finances.


In Chicago, watch Medill Reports video stories on CAN-TV channel 27