Buying a first home is a major milestone in most people’s lives. With home prices steadily rising over the past few decades, the average age at which people purchase their first home has also increased. Determining the average age is complicated by factors like location, income, education level, and career trajectory. However, examining national data provides some insight into homebuying trends.
The National Average
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the median age of first-time home buyers in the United States is 32. This has gradually increased over the past few decades, up from 31 in the 2000s, 30 in the 1990s, and 29 in the 1970s and 1980s. So the typical first-time buyer today is slightly older than in previous generations.
There is significant variation among states. Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Utah have the oldest average age at 35. Meanwhile, younger first-time buyers are found in states like West Virginia (31), Ohio (31), and Wyoming (30).
Compared internationally, first-time buyers in the U.S. are a bit older than in other developed nations. The average age is 30 in the United Kingdom, early 30s in Canada, late 20s in Australia, and early 30s across the European Union.
Looking at different generations in the U.S. provides more context behind the national average:
- Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964): Average age of 30
- Generation X (born 1965-1980): Average age of 32
- Millennials (born 1981-1996): Average age of 33
- Generation Z (born 1997-2012): Too early to calculate
Millennials are waiting the longest to buy, likely due to student debt burdens, rising home prices, and slowed financial progression following the Great Recession. But earlier generations were able to buy sooner when prices were lower and mortgage lending was less strict.
By Income and Location
Income and geography intersect with age. Higher earners and those living in more affordable areas tend to buy sooner.
For example, among millennial first-time buyers the average age is:
- 29 for households earning over $100,000
- 33 for households earning $50,000 to $100,000
- 36 for households earning less than $50,000
And by region, millennials’ average age is:
- 32 in the Midwest
- 33 in the South
- 34 on the West Coast
- 36 in the Northeast
So higher incomes and lower prices allow people to buy at younger ages.
Key Factors Behind the Age Trend
Several socioeconomic factors help explain the gradually rising average age of first-time home buyers over recent decades:
- Cost of housing – As home prices have outpaced wage growth, saving for a down payment takes longer.
- Student debt – Student loans delay financial progress and ability to qualify for a mortgage.
- Urbanization – Density and high costs in cities like LA and NYC delay purchases.
- Lending standards – Stricter rules since the housing crash make loans harder to obtain.
- Marriage/children – People who prioritize home ownership get serious later in life.
- Career instability – Frequent job changes inhibit financial planning.
These economic factors show no signs of reversing course, so the trend toward older first-time buyers seems poised to continue in the coming years.
While the average age has risen, the dream of homeownership remains strong across generations. But buying a first home in one’s early 20s is becoming less common, especially for those with lower incomes or in high-cost regions. The typical first-time buyer today is in their early 30s, buys several years later than previous generations, and faces greater obstacles saving for a down payment. Still, home ownership remains an aspirational life event that most still achieve at some point, even if the timeline has been pushed back.