Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

There is no question: it is hard for a first-time buyer to enter the housing market today. The aspiring buyer faces record-breaking low inventory levels, rising rents, and student debt loads that make it difficult to save. But for some, there is a way that does help: they turn to the trusted bank of mom and dad.

One-third of first-time buyers used help from friends or family to purchase a home in the last year. Twenty-seven percent received a gift from friends or family and five percent took out a personal loan. Many first-time buyers combine this with savings, as 78% of first-time buyers did use savings to purchase.

Using family as a source of downpayment help is most common among younger millennial buyers (ages 20 to 28) compared to other generations, and is more common among unmarried couples. Both sets of buyers have lower household incomes so may be less likely to scrape together the funds individually.

Another way family is helping out is by allowing first-time buyers to skip the renting cost by living at home before buying. Nearly one-quarter of first-time buyers are moving directly from their parents, friends or family members’ home into homeownership. This share has steadily increased from a low of 12% in 1993 to 23% today. While renting is still the most common prior living arrangement for first-time buyers, it has steadily decreased from a high of 82% to a low of 71%.

Line graph: First-Time Buyer Prior Living Arrangement, 1989 to 2019

Among younger millennials, 30% moved directly from a family member’s home into homeownership. This was more common of an arrangement among single males and unmarried couples before buying a home.

This living arrangement provides a number of benefits: not only can a first-time buyer save for a downpayment without the cost of rent, but they can also pay down any debt and get their debt-to-income ratio check. It may also be easier to navigate the tight housing market, as the buyer does not need to line up when a rental lease ends with the timing of purchasing a home. They are free to put down contracts on homes, which they may not get, with less pressure of where they will live if they lose out.

However, doubling up only works if it works well for the family they are living with as well. Some families may not have the room, or may want assistance with costs—such as utilities and groceries. Among all first-time buyers who moved directly from a family members’ home into ownership, half did pay some rent in the arrangement.

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