Seniors weigh post-grad housing options

Brentaro Yamane | Multimedia Editor | Cameron Dougherty poses outside of his rented house in South Side.

Eliyahu Gasson | Opinions Editor

Recent data from real estate brokerage Redfin shows that the cost of renting a home in Pittsburgh is now cheaper than owning one. Buying a home, especially for people just graduating from college, can seem like it’s miles away.

Cameron Dougherty is graduating from Duquesne in May with a bachelor’s degree in physics. He currently rents in the South Side, but said that his future housing plans are reliant on whether or not he can get a job lined up by the time he graduates.

“City living is expensive,” Dougherty said. “I’ll probably stay home for a little bit, save up some money.”

Right now, Dougherty plans to move back with his parents in Whitehall until he is financially stable enough to get his own place.

Hannah Valenty, a fellow graduating physics major at Duquesne and Pittsburgh area native also sees herself moving back home after she graduates.

Valenty, like Dougherty, doesn’t have a job lined up yet for when she graduates.

“Hopefully, I will secure one of those before graduation to keep the ball rolling,” Valenty said.

Valenty said that her financial position as a graduating college student and young professional is prohibitive toward her ability to buy a home.

“I think the housing market is tough right now,” Valenty said. “I don’t think I’m in the position to buy my forever home or a house in general. Maybe one day.”

The average salary for a college grad in Pittsburgh is $43,002 per year according to ZipRecruiter. Combined with the average total debt load of college students in Pennsylvania at $39,027, according to data from the Institute for College Access & Success, means that buying a house can be a daunting proposition.

As if to make up for the high debt load in the commonwealth, the average upfront cost of housing in Pittsburgh is 46% lower than the national average at $216,750 compared to the $402,343 according to data from real estate brokerage Redfin. However the average down payment for a house in the commonwealth of $42,375, according to the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors, can mean that buying a home can be years out of reach for the average college senior.

As it stands, college students who plan to stay in Pittsburgh and want to get their own place are more likely to be better off renting, at least for now.

Psychology major Annessa Donato is graduating in May. She currently rents an apartment in Uptown and says she’s more likely than not to renew her lease once it’s up.

“I have to go back to school and get my master’s, so that’s my plan,” Donato said.

She hopes to start a career in counseling after she gets her master’s degree. She plans on going to either Carlow University or Duquesne for it. In either case, she said, her current apartment in Uptown makes the most sense for her both financially and because of its location in the city.

“I feel very safe here,” Donato said. “I walk to campus every day since it’s only a three minute walk. And if I wanna get somewhere, like if I want to go to my friend’s house … I use Uber.”

The average monthly cost of owning a home in the region as of March 2023 is $1,648 while the average renter is paying $1,619. That means homeowners are paying 1.8% more each month than renters.

That doesn’t mean that all students aren’t able to buy their own homes, however, graduate student at Duquesne Corbin Miller recently bought a house in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh.

During undergrad, he had been renting a house in the South Side with fellow students. Miller stayed after they all got their bachelor degrees and moved into a different home on the South Side. That, he said, was one of the reasons he wanted to buy a home.

“I just got tired of moving my stuff and I wanted something more permanent,” Miller said.

Miller said he is also buying his house for financial reasons.

“I’d just rather build equity in buying a house and using it as more of an investment,” Miller said. “I don’t like paying every month and not owning what I pay for.”

Wherever students are in their house-buying journeys, the financial stresses and permanence weigh into decision making. However, the advantages to Pittsburgh’s homebuying scene compared to other cities in the nation offers assistance to future renters and buyers.