Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

Using Tax Refund for a Downpayment

Here is some insight on how Americans can invest their tax return and how first-time home buyers may look to invest long term. One of the major hurdles for potential home buyers is the downpayment. With a sizable tax refund, the average American would have a sizeable or partial downpayment depending on which region or market you live in. The estimated average tax refund is expected to be $2,840 for most Americans this year, which is slightly down from $2,895 last year. Some of the main recommendations on what to do if you receive a tax return are save, invest, splurge, pay down debt, donate or fund a business idea. The younger generation is working to overcome debt, lack of savings and rising home prices.

irs refund

Let us look at the data from NAR’s 2017 Home Buyer and Sellers:

  • For first-time buyers, the median downpayment ticked down to 5% in 2017 from 6% in 2016.
  • First-time home buyers made up 22% of all buyers.
  • For first-time home buyers, 13 percent cited their most difficult step in the home buying process was saving for a downpayment.
  • For first-time home buyers, 25% said saving for a downpayment was the most difficult step in the process. It took 32% of first-time home buyers more than two years to save up for a downpayment however, 29% were able to come up with a downpayment within six months or less and that is where the tax refund can help.
  • For first-time home buyers, 78% used their savings to make a down payment while 25% used a gift from a relative or friend.  The third most used source of a downpayment was sale of stocks, a loan from a relative or their tax return at 7 percent. All buyers made up 4 percent and repeat buyers made up 2 percent who used their tax return.

With improved job markets and rising wages, first-time buyers could apply the tax refund of approximately of $2,840 to boost their downpayment when entering a housing market, which has experienced very tight inventories and rising prices. By state, Connecticut on average is expected to have the highest tax return at $3,126 while Vermont may have the lowest return at $2,254. Below you can find your state to estimate your return.


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