Home > Mortgages > Today’s First-Time Homebuyer Is 32 & More Likely to Be Single

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A lot of people have this idea that buying a house is something you do once you’re married and ready to “settle down.” Maybe you buy your first house so you have room for your kids, or you’re preparing to need that room. That’s mostly how it used to be. Historical data shows that the majority of first-time homebuyers in the ’70s were about 29 or 30, married and had a family of nearly three people to move into that first nest.

Now, first-time homebuyers are more likely to be single and about 32.5 years old. Only 40% of first-time homebuyers were married between 2010 and 2013, down from 47% between 2000 and 2004 and down from 52% in the late 80s, according to a report from real estate company Zillow.

About 30 years ago, the median age of someone buying his or her first house was 29.6 years old, but by 2010 through 2013, the median was up to 32.5 years. Actually, the age of homebuyers has been in the neighborhood of 33 years since 1995, but the share of the population that’s married has gone down, and the length of time the homebuyers had spent renting before buying has gone up.

Cost seems to have a much larger impact on home-buying tendencies than family status. At least, that’s the way it looks, based on the Zillow analysis. Zillow used data from the Panel Survey of Income Dynamics (from 1970 through 2013), which has been conducted by University of Michigan researchers since 1968.

In the early ’70s, the median age of first-time homebuyers was 30.6, and they spent a median of 2.6 years renting before buying a home. The median home price was also only 1.7 times the median income during those years. From 2010 through 2013, first-time homebuyers came to the market after a median six years of renting, and a median-priced home was 2.6 times the median income.

Homes have gotten more expensive, but wages haven’t kept up. Rent isn’t cheap, either, but a tight post-crisis mortgage market, coupled with the challenge of saving for a down payment, often makes renting more doable than buying a house.

When it comes to buying your first house, it can feel like there’s a lot beyond your control — housing prices, your income, property availability, etc. — but if you go into the process with good credit, you can improve your chances of getting a mortgage. (Here’s an explainer on what a “good” credit score number is.)

If buying a house is in your future plans, you should be checking your credit regularly, not only so you can identify areas for improvement but also to make sure everything on your credit reports is accurate (here’s how to get your free annual credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies). There are a lot of little things that can make getting a mortgage messy, so do your best to make sure your credit isn’t one of them. To stay on top of that, you can check your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.

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