- Late last year, in the middle of the pandemic lockdown, my wife and I bought a Brooklyn apartment.
- After graduating college into the financial crisis, the odds of homeownership were not in our favor.
- The pandemic forced banks to offer historically low mortgage interest rates and allowed us to buy an apartment.
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For the last decade, as friends and relatives bought homes, my wife and I paid rent.
More specifically, we paid rent in New York City — which is to say we paid a lot of money in rent. So, so much. I try not to think about it, honestly.
We did it because we love living here, and Brooklyn is home. I considered it a necessary evil of living in the greatest city in the world.
But this January, just after the most uneventful New Year’s Eve in New York City history, we closed on a one bedroom Brooklyn co-op apartment. If you’d asked me in January 2020, “Will you ever buy a home in New York City?” the answer would’ve been simple: “No, not unless we win the lottery.”
Real estate prices in New York are notoriously high, of course, but that’s just one of several issues facing potential buyers. Not only is it expensive, but it’s extremely competitive. Before the pandemic hit, just going to see an available place in Brooklyn meant competing against people with, frankly, a lot more money than me. I am never going to outbid someone who makes $500,000 annually.
So, how did a couple of avocado toast-eating, cold brew-swilling, MacBook-using millennials manage to buy a home in Brooklyn?
It boils down to several key factors:
1. We are immensely lucky and privileged.
My wife and I graduated from college directly into the 2008/2009 subprime mortgage-spurred market collapse that led to a massive
. Unlike so many of our peers, we were both tremendously lucky to get jobs directly out of college doing what we went to college to do: I am a journalist and my wife is an environmental scientist. I consider myself particularly lucky in this respect, as the media business isn’t known for its stability.
We are also both white Americans, which confers a variety of privileges throughout our lives. Literally everything was easier because of these factors, and must be acknowledged up front.
Because we were lucky enough to have steady employment for years after college, we had good credit scores from years of paying bills on time. That steady employment history coupled with good credit scores meant we were easily pre-qualified for home loans at low rates.
Notably, we don’t have kids, and we saved money steadily for several years before beginning this process.
2. The pandemic.
Above all else, the global pandemic was the most immediate reason we were able to…