From the white picket fence to the garden in the front yard, homeownership is a big part of the classic American dream. But for many, saving up for their first home can take a while, especially in today’s housing market. That means Americans are likely to have to rent longer before pulling the trigger on purchasing their first home. The question is: how long do we have to rent? And, when we do decide to buy, do we stay close to where we grew up or strike out for parts unknown? We explored all that and more with our survey.
American Homeowners Rent for 5 Years Before Buying a Home
When we asked Americans about their home-buying experiences, we found that the average homeowner rented for just over five years before purchasing a home. Considering that the average age for a U.S. first-time home buyer was just shy of 29, that would make moving-out age approximately 24.
Five years may seem like a long time to rent a place (or a series of places), but the housing market can be prohibitively expensive in many areas of the country. Rent is often more affordable than a mortgage and gives people time to save up for a down payment on their first home. This makes sense given that the top reason Americans delayed purchasing a home was a lack of funding.
Aside from not having enough money for a down payment, there are other big hurdles people want to clear before purchasing their first home. 33% of people found the entire home-buying process too overwhelming to even begin, 25% weren’t sure where they wanted to live, and 21% thought the idea of homeownership was too stressful to consider before finally deciding to buy.
Interestingly, 20% of Americans said they wanted to wait until they were in a long-term relationship to purchase a home. But once they’re in a long-term relationship, buying isn’t always an option right away. On average, couples rented with their partner for 3.5 years before buying a home, which should be plenty of time to get to know each other even better before getting married.
States Where Residents Stay in Their Hometowns
To get a clearer picture of what renting looks like across the U.S. we asked people from every state how long people should rent before buying a home, and if they did or were planning on purchasing their first home near the area where they grew up. There was some interesting regional variation when it came to both questions.
First, let’s take a look at the states where people choose to stay close to home when purchasing for the first time. Residents in Connecticut and Pennsylvania are the most likely to purchase their first home near where they grew up, with 52% of respondents in each saying that’s their plan.
On the other side of the spectrum, residents of Florida and North Carolina are the least likely to stay in their hometowns. Less than 20% of respondents from these states said they did or intended to purchase a home close to where they grew up.
When it comes to how long people should rent before buying, New Yorkers give people the most time. They said people should rent for an average of three years and nine months before purchasing, which is unsurprising when you consider the average home price in New York is over $620,000 according to Zillow. North Carolinians came in with the second-highest average answer of three years and eight months. Given that it’s also a state where people don’t plan on sticking around, this makes sense so that they have time to save up for a place they want.
Residents in Delaware gave the shortest leash to renters and, on average, said people should only rent for one year and nine months before making the decision to buy. Those in Indiana and Maryland weren’t far off from this figure, saying people should only rent for just over two years before purchasing.
Considering that the average homeowner in our survey rented for just over five years before buying, it seems like every state could reset its expectations on when is the right time to purchase your first home.
For many, homeownership is the next big item on the checklist after getting married. But, based on our survey results, the rent-to-buy timeline can vary a great deal depending on who (and where) you are.
Don’t let outside pressures get in the way of major life decisions. It’s important that you go at your own pace and take time to make the right decisions for you, whether that be when purchasing a home or deciding who you want to spend the rest of your life with in it.
Once you’ve found that person, Shane Co.’s selection of engagement rings is a great place to find the perfect symbol of your love when popping the question. And once that’s taken care of, you can move wherever you want, but only when you’re ready.
To find out how long Americans are renting before buying a home, we surveyed 1,000 American homeowners over two weeks in March of 2023. We asked them about the number of months they rented before purchasing a home, what delayed this (if anything), and what the added pressures are from purchasing a home while in a relationship.
To determine the states where Americans are most likely to stay in their hometown, we surveyed an additional 2,000 Americans from 44 states. We asked them how long people should rent before buying and how likely they were to purchase a home in the city or town they grew up in.