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Marie Fazio ? marie.fazio@jacksonville.com The image of the internet-obsessed, frivolously spending millennial has pervaded the real estate market amid claims that their avocado toast, fancy latte preferences and student loan debt make home purchases an unattainable luxury.According to reliable research, as well as the experience and expertise of local real estate agents, millennials are, in fact, purchasing homes, regardless of their choice of breakfast foodForget unmotivated and foolish; instead, millennial homebuyers have proven to be research-driven, analytical and technologically savvyAccording to the 2017 National Association of Realtors Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study, millennials, those aged 36 and younger, accounted for the largest portion of homebuyers in 2016 at 34 percentFurthermore, according to Zillow, millennials make up 56 percent of first-time homebuyers.The NAR study also found that of the homebuyers surveyed in 2016, though 46 percent of those aged 36 and younger had student loan debt, as compared to 27 percent of those aged 37-51, the older generation had a higher median debt by five thousand dollars.Debbie Shagnea of Watson Realty Corphas witnessed firsthand the rumor - of millennials not buying houses - proven false in the Jacksonville area, where she helps many young homebuyers find and purchase their first homesShe believes this is partly due to lowered interest rates."Most [young couples] rent initially and save their money so they can buy," Shagnea said"They're really savvy on the internet, do their homework in advance, monitor listings and do their searches of what they want before they make appointments to view the homes."Tools such as Zillow's rent search ability on RealEstate.com, which allows users to search for a home based on what they pay in monthly rent, are catered towards millennials buying their first homesThe tool allows potential homebuyers to see exactly what they would pay each month for a house - including property taxes, homeowners insurance, utilities and other related costsThis can make the financial aspect of the home purchase less daunting.Even with the promising statistics, some sacrifice is necessary to save for the down payment and closing costs, as well as other expenses that occur both before and after the purchase of a home."In today's climate, it is harder to afford the down payment and closing costs," said Anthony Curtis, who recently purchased a home with his wife, Molly.The couple sees the purchase of their home as a valuable investment."With renting, you're never going to see that money back in equity," Curtis said.According to Shagnea, typical first-time homebuyers are married with two incomes, which makes it easier to save up for the down payment and closing costs, as well as being accepted for a mortgage.Phillip Heilman, 25, recently closed on a home in historic SpringfieldHeilman, a digital engagement specialist with Morris Digital Studio, purchased the home with his girlfriend.Like some other first-time home buyers from Duval County, Heilman took advantage of Hardest-Hit Fund Down Payment Assistance program, offered by the state of Florida, to help finance his homeThe program offers $15,000 in down payment, closing cost and pre-paid assistance towards the purchase of a new or pre-existing home.Applicants must be first-time homebuyers - or those who have not owned a home within the last three years - earning $88,620 or lessThe money is treated as a second mortgage that is forgiven after five years."We met all of the qualifications," Heilman said.Heilman was drawn to Springfield because of the neighborhood's young population, energy and sense of communityHe may someday move to the suburbs to start a family, but for now is content with living in an energetic community filled with young people."To me it's a good mix of millennials and first-time homebuyers trying to establish roots with an older community," Heilman said"Every house's story is a little different."Though his new home was built in 2006, it still has the antique feel for which homes in Springfield are well-known."It was built to look historic, so it fits in the fabric of the community," Heilman said.Shagnea has also found that millennials tend to have a more practical view on home size than the previous generation of "McMansion" buyersThey realize that bigger houses are tougher to sell and more difficult to maintain, she added.According to Shagnea, instead "most want to be in a good school district, with nice finishes - wood, granite, tile - and garagesCommunity amenities are also important."The Curtises, who settled on a one-story home in Aberdeen in StJohn's County, held this same view when trying to find a suitable house."A lot of us around our age have seen our parents and family members move into smaller homes because they can't deal with it physically or with the upkeep," Curtis said"We didn't want it to be too big - single story, and with a manageable yard"With that goal in mind, the Curtises stayed within their budget, as they were wary of going beyond their means now and becoming "house-poor" down the roadThe couple decided on Aberdeen based primarily on budget, location, closeness to family and work, along with the size of the home.For the Curtises, buying a home was an obvious next move after marriageMany of their friends and acquaintances in their same age group seem to be making the same move."The goal is that this is going to be our forever home," said Curtis.^Marie Fazio: (904) 359- 4467 Never miss a story Choose the plan that's right for you. 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