Here's the surprising truth about first-time home buyers

Millennials are making a big mistake by not owning their homes, says one...

Owning a home can be a great way to accumulate wealth in the U.S., but the barrier to entry is steep, especially now. That may be why, though many experts agree that millennials should be buying — or saving to buy — homes, it seems like relatively few are.

The New York Times' Real Estate section crunched data from the National Association of Realtors and came up with a profile of first-time buyers that makes clear that at least some of the concern that young people are shrugging off home-ownership is misplaced: The median first-time buyer is a millennial, albeit a pretty successful one.

First-time home buyers, the Times reports, are overwhelmingly white (79 percent), born in America (78 percent) and child-free (60 percent) but still married (58 percent). Their first foray into domestic real estate almost always takes the form of a detached single-family house (82 percent).

And the median first-time home buyer is a 32-year-old who makes $72,000 a year.

These days, $72,000 is roughly the median income for a middle-class family of three. The overall median household income is $56,516.

The Times also reports that 10 percent more single women than men are becoming first-time home owners, though the houses they buy are about $10,000 cheaper than the ones single men spring for.

"Not surprisingly, considering the wage gap, the men were able to pay a bit more: The median home price paid by the men was $157,000, while the median price paid by the women was $146,300."

Married couples pay the most for their first houses: Their median home price is $208,500. The median first-home price for everyone is $182,500.

Overall, according to the NAR report from which the Times got its data, in 2016, first-time buyers accounted for 35 percent of all purchases. The "typical buyer" was 44 years old.

Real estate used to be much more accessible to the young: The report also notes that, in 1981, "the typical buyer was between the ages of 25-34."

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