The Definitive Guide to Buying Your First Home

Saving for a home is no longer a top financial priority in the U.S.


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A home with a white picket fence used to be a core part of the American dream. Now, the realities of paying off increasing levels of debt and saving for a once-in-a-lifetime trip are replacing it.

Some 81% of Americans currently renting are prioritizing at least one other financial goal over home ownership, according to the latest ING International Survey. Raising a family, paying off student loan debt and spending on experiences like travel seem more realistic for many than buying a home, ING reports.

Ever-increasing housing costs are a big reason why many are de-prioritizing saving for a home: 43% of Americans say the housing market in the U.S. is "on the wrong track," and half believe prices will only go up in the next year. A quarter of renters believe they will never be able to buy.

The median sales price for houses in the U.S. has essentially doubled since 2000, according to data from the St. Louis Fed. At the same time, student loan debt has skyrocketed more than 150%, while wages have stagnated for middle- and low-income workers.

Saving for travel is increasingly important

Across the world, traveling is a top financial priority for many people, according to ING's survey. With many seeing home ownership as unattainable — at least for now — they are instead pursuing goals that seem reachable with their current salaries and debt loads.

The only people prioritizing saving for a home over travel are those who currently live rent-free with family or friends, per ING's report.

"Our survey results suggest that people are buying later and paying off their mortgage over longer periods," the report says. "Time frames are shifting outwards, which arguably provides an opportunity to prioritize multiple financial needs in the shorter term."

Just over 20% of Americans believe that they will be 35 or older when and if they do buy for the first time. The median age of first time buyers was 33 in 2019, the oldest on record since 1981, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors.

When they do buy, 63% say they have regrets, mostly related to the hidden costs associated with owning a home.

Still, home ownership remains a dream for many. If it's one of your financial goals, here are some resources to get you started:

You can also follow CNBC Make It's Millennial Mortgage series, which details how people across the country are making their homeownership dreams a reality.

Don't miss: How a 25-year-old used $40,000 in down-payment assistance to buy her first house in Atlanta

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How this couple making $185,000/year bought a $599,000 home in Gardena, CA
How this couple making $185,000/year bought a $599,000 home in Gardena, CA