Like many of life's milestones, buying your first home comes down to a matter of timing. For most people, the most opportune time to become a property owner comes after you’ve finally climb out from under debt. But a new study released by the Urban Institute suggests there's a target age you should aim for if you want to get the most out of your purchase.
Examining data of more than 18,000 people with information stretching back to 1968, the report found that those who purchased a house between the ages of 25 to 34 reap the most benefits in terms of home equity when they enter their 60s, with a median value of $148,625. People who purchased their first property when they were older have less housing wealth as they age, which makes sense when you consider property values generally appreciate over time.
More unexpected was the report's conclusion that buying younger does not necessarily mean you enjoy more home equity in older age. The early birds who purchased their first home before the age of 25 had a median housing wealth of $130,000, almost $20,000 less than those in the 25-34 range.
The reason for the lesser housing wealth lies with the original value of the homes purchased. Property owners in the 25 to 34 age range bought houses with a median value of $125,457, while the youngest age group bought property with a median value of nearly half that number. Cheaper homes will obviously appreciate less in value than more expensive properties, though there is an upside for young buyers: They entering their 60s with the least amount of mortgage debt. The median unpaid principal left on their mortgages was only $10,845, compared to the $49,754 the 25 to 34 group had left to pay off.
When's the perfect age to buy a house?
The takeaway? There is an ideal age to buy your first home, and that’s between the ages of 25 to 34. As you enter your golden years and (hopefully) retirement, the equity in your home will become even more important to your financial health, especially should you need to refinance to cover any gaps in your retirement savings.
Of course, there are barriers in the path of today's 25 to 34 year-olds that prevents them from running out and buying a house, such as student debt, a general shortage of new houses on the market and rising interest rates for mortgages. As the report notes, 50% of the property owners in the study were able to purchase when they were in this age range, compared to only 37% of property owners today. But for those with the luxury of being able to decide when to buy their first house, they should keep in mind that it doesn't pay to wait too long.