Millennials en pandemia
The pandemic forced Yuliett Zolotarenko to return home to her parents, but she soon regained her independence. (Photo: Courtesy)

Tania Téllez and her boyfriend had to start all over. They had to leave their apartment they rented near the Zapata subway station because her salary was reduced. “Our financial situation got out of control. We tried to adjust, but we finally went back to my mom’s house,” she says.

She returned to the State of Mexico. “We tried to see it as a pause. We already had a goal, but we had to go back. We have in mind returning once I get back to my full salary or change jobs,” she explains.

Maritza Flores, a leasing executive at AC Bienes y Raíces, says that the pandemic has led to a “stampede” in vacancies.

“It was amazing. We weren’t earning enough anymore. March to July were the worst. Nothing was being rented; they fell by 80%. Never in our history have we had so many vacancies,” she says.

Low rent earnings proved worrying, because renting is a housing-related activity with the second highest level of income. In 2018 alone, it represented 1,327 million pesos, according to figures from the 2018 Satellite Housing Count calculated by the National Statistics and Geography Institute (Inegi).

Discounts resulting from the pandemic

The rental earnings went down in the properties that Maritza manages, but other real estate in other areas remained stable.

“We had barely a 10% drop. This is because we had a 5% increase in sales,” says Alejandra Escobedo Gallegos, real estate sales consultant.

Banks lowered their interest rates, and this no longer suited the people who had their investments in them, so they decided to buy property and put it up for rent. “The supply of apartments for rent went up and costs went down. Many young people took advantage of these offers,” adds Escobedo.

That’s the case for Aleyda Vázquez, who started renting two weeks ago. “The pandemic affected me a lot. When I moved, a lot of people commented: ‘Why are you moving in a pandemic?’ But, if not now, when?” she asks.

Aleyda passed the worst of the pandemic with her family, and now that she’s become independent, the lack of company is the main change she has to deal with, but the psychology graduate knows the challenge and embraces her independence.

Travelers back at home

Aleyda’s case is encouraging, but it’s not the common denominator of the crisis. According to the latest National Housing Survey, the millennial generation (25- to 34-year-olds) is the one that rents the most, at 42.8%, and this sector of the population recorded the most real estate vacancy, according to the leasing companies consulted by Tec Review.

Much of that percentage is equivalent to the number of people from other states of the Mexican Republic. According to the latest Inegi Mobility Study, 1.7 million people from surrounding states enter the capital daily.

Fernanda Huerta is originally from Pachuca de Soto, Hidalgo, but has been living and working in Mexico City for many years. When the pandemic started, she didn’t think it was necessary to leave her apartment. But as more and more days of lockdown added up, she packed her things and went back to her mother’s house.

“I really saw an advantage to working from home at my mom’s house, and she was also more at peace. Since I started working at a financial institution, I’ve been looking after my money more, and I know it’s an opportunity to save,” she explains.

Fernanda was paying rent for three months when everyone believed the health emergency would last 40 days. “When I saw that the trend was going to be different, I went straight to my mom’s. Why waste money? Rents in Mexico City are very expensive, and I was spending almost 15,000 pesos,” Huerta explains.

But as soon as her job tells her to go back to the office, Fernanda will return to Mexico City, so she’s saving “to have a cushion and not spend so much,” she explains.

“A lot of people are looking for cheaper rents, and what I’ve seen most is roommates. It’s the solution: share the rent with up to five people. The number of people per apartment has increased. The average is three to four people. It’s very rare for someone to arrive and want to live alone, of course, unless it’s a rent of 4,000 pesos,” says the Leasing Executive.

Fernanda is already looking for roommates, and one of her prospects is Cinthia Flores, her friend from Pachuca.

Cinthia had been living alone in Mexico City for almost three years, but because of the pandemic, she returned to her family in Hidalgo. Her landlord let her leave some of her things in the apartment. “What I miss most is my solitude, my privacy, but spending the pandemic with my family has been beneficial and also helped me to save. I’m now going to buy a car, a goal that wouldn’t have been possible in Mexico City,” she says.

Back to college

Another affected population are college students from other states, who look forward to face-to-face classes, returning to their rooms or apartments, away from noise and household chores.

Alfredo Vázquez, a psychology student, is one of them. The closing of the university sent him back to San Juan del Río, Querétaro. “I have somewhere to go, and that’s good, but it’s still difficult changing my whole routine. I’d gotten used to my independence. But I have plans of going back. If I finish my degree via Zoom, it won’t matter. I want to do a master’s degree abroad,” he says.

The vast majority of university students who rented in Copilco returned to their place of origin, according to one of the landlords in the area. Yuliett Zolotarenko had only been out of her apartment for three months when she returned due to an argument with her father.

“In March, my parents asked me to go home during the pandemic, but I returned to my apartment in June or July because my dad felt disrespected by me, and that’s because I’ve lived alone since I was 18 with the allowance my biological father gives me,” Yul says.

What’s in store for 2021?

Real estate experts estimate that offices and schools will reopen their doors in January.

Living through the pandemic as a family has had benefits. Everyone agreed that being with people made the lockdown more bearable, but it also made them miss their privacy. Many of these young people took advantage of the break to save, yet they all hope to regain their independence.