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Lizzy Washburn, 33, sits on the enclosed porch of her 1930s cottage in East Naples, overlooking a lush garden.

"We definitely have the millennial nomadic bug," Washburn said about herself and her husband.

But owning a home has changed her perspective. "You see the enjoyment of having this kind of stability in your life," she said.

Millennials, those currently in their 20s and mid-30s, have a reputation of delaying some of the major steps toward traditional adulthood: marriage, children and purchasing a home. 

But lifestyle choices are not the only reason this particular group chooses to  buy a first home much later in life than those that came before them. 

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“They want to own homes. They see their rents increasing. They see the writing on the wall," said John Seroka, brand strategist at Seroka, a company that specializes in marketing mortgages. Market constraints and financial responsibilities make this part of the American dream increasingly hard to achieve.

In Naples, a lack of inventory on the lower and midpriced housing market is presenting an additional obstacle to homeownership.  

When Kristi and Jonathan Tetlak moved to Southwest Florida from a suburb of Cleveland, they were shocked. The couple had owned a home in Ohio with an attached 120 acres for their two dogs to roam, a two-car garage and plenty of distance to their next-door neighbors.

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In Naples, despite her husband's well-paid new position as chief engineer at the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, they found themselves faced with extremely limited options, Kristi Tetlak said. “We knew it was expensive to live down here, but we didn’t know the extent of how hard it would be."

Millennials are struggling to find affordable homes, especially in the Naples area, where the median price for a home sits around $400,000, almost double that of neighboring Fort Myers, according to a 2017 report by real estate website Zillow. 

While median prices are highly influenced by extremes, such as million-dollar homes on Naples' desirable beachfront, it is homes in the midprice range that prospective young homeowners are struggling to find. 

“Options were very slim to none in our price range," Kristi Tetlak said. "There's no in-between."

“Because the price point in Naples is so much higher than the national average, it’s harder for millennials to obtain a loan for a home here," local real estate agent Marta Campbell said. 

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For the Tetlak family, expecting their second child, the pressure felt overwhelming at times. 

"There were times when I broke down and cried because I thought we made the wrong decision," Kristi Tetlak said.

The Tetlaks were in a privileged position, provided with transitional housing through Jonathan Tetlak's position at the Marriott, and an income that allowed them to pay slightly more than they had initially planned.

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Many others attempting to become homeowners are struggling with the financial pressure of monthly rent payments, rental contracts and student loan debt looming over them, making it hard to save for a house.

“When you’re a millennial, you are not necessarily in a situation where you have a surplus," said Jennifer Ruiz Garay, consumer staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society.

Garay, a millennial herself, said student loans, increasing rent prices and inability to build credit during years of secondary education are major challenges for people in her age group aiming to be homeowners.

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Unlike generations before them, purchasing a home is not the first large financial investment for most people in their 20s and 30s today. Many have spent double or even triple digits on their education, often taking out a loan to do so. “Housing falls second to that," Garay said. 

The challenge of coming up with the down payment is often a factor that nips millennials' dreams of homeownership in the bud. Twenty-one percent rely on the help of family members to help them come up with the initial sum, according to a 2016 consumer market report by Zillow. 

In Washburn's case, it was her parents who were hoping to invest in a house in Southwest Florida.

"I wasn't planning on buying a house," she said, "I didn't even think I could afford one." For her, homeownership did not seem like an attainable goal on a teacher's salary.

Committing to one location can be an additional challenge for many millennials. 

"It’s almost as if they don’t mind bouncing from employer to employer. Because of that, they are not as tied to a place, either," said Brett Ellis, partner at the Ellis Team in Fort Myers. 

Garay pointed out that millennials often do not have the luxury of choosing a location and staying there. 

“We really don’t know where we’ll be. We have to go where the opportunities are. We can’t really be extra-picky," she said.

Washburn is weary of the stereotypes older generations attach to millennials. Despite having lived a fairly nomadic life — she taught algebra and math in Istanbul for three years before becoming a teacher at the Community School of Naples — she loves being a homeowner. "We really want to try and keep it," she said.

According to Zillow's 2016 consumer report, millennials make up a majority of buyers today and share many of the preferences and perspectives of their grandparents' generation.

In high-priced markets like Naples, it just might take them longer to come up with the funds.

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