Buying Your First Home? Save, and Save Some More

First-time buyers nationwide face similar hurdles.

“If you look at the housing market seven years ago, or eight years ago, qualifying for a mortgage was something more top of mind, because credit was so tight,” said Cheryl Young, a senior economist at Trulia. But recently, saving for a down payment has become a more primary concern.

According to a recent national survey by Trulia, 56 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 34 said saving enough for a down payment was the biggest barrier to homeownership, followed by rising home prices. Other top concerns included poor credit history and student loan debt, both of which can make it difficult to get a mortgage.

These problems have helped push the median age of home buyers to 46, the oldest age ever recorded by the National Association of Realtors. When the organization started collecting this data in 1981, the median age was 31. But millennials ranging in age from 25 to 34 make up the largest share of home buyers, and the median age for first-time buyers has remained around 30 to 32 for over 20 years.

“The best advice I give younger New York City residents is to try and make money like a New York City professional, but spend like you’re still a college student,” said Robert Stromberg, who works with six-figure earners in their 30s and 40s at his financial planning firm, Mountain River Financial, near Philadelphia. “If you don’t want to adjust your spending, well, then you’re left with just earning more.”

For first-time buyers Mark Hildreth, a construction manager, and his wife, Caitlin Saloka, a global account supervisor for an advertising firm, both 28, their debt made it difficult to save for a home.

“We blew most of what we had on a wedding in 2014,” Mr. Hildreth said. They spent the next year paying it off while also trying to pay down student debt.

Mr. Hildreth’s parents used their home-equity line of credit to help Ms. Saloka refinance her loans, reducing her interest rate to 3.5 percent from 12. Mr. Hildreth, who recently began pursuing a master’s degree at Columbia, had several school bills of his own.

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