This Is How Long It Takes Most Americans to Save For a Down Payment

published Jul 14, 2018
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(Image credit: Lana Kenney)

It doesn’t matter how much you smash that piggy bank—your first home is going to be really expensive and it’s going to take a long time to save up for that down payment on your own. According to a new study from HotPads, most renters will spend nearly six and a half years saving to put a down payment on a home.

Since the median home price in the United States is $216,000, the average 20-percent down payment comes out to $43,200. If a renter making the median income in America ($51,784) saved 20 percent of their income every month (around $590 after taxes), it would take a total of 77 months to make that much money in savings, or roughly six and a half years, says the report.

Rising rent prices across the country are keeping potential homebuyers from saving the necessary funds. The median rent is $1,480, up 2.5 percent from last year. If that wasn’t enough, home values are also increasing in most places. Home values rose over 8 percent last year and are scheduled to rise another 6.5 percent in the next year, according to HotPads’ research. This is great for homeowners but not so much for first-time homebuyers who feel like the down-payment goalposts are always moving.

“While some high earners may manage to save more than the recommended 20 percent of their income, or may have the good fortune of windfalls such as family assistance, inheritance, or large bonuses, most young adults struggle to save,” says Joshua Clark, economist at HotPads. “The current generation of first-time buyers dealing with unprecedented levels of student debt, making the down payment a major factor keeping young renters out of the housing market even though many young people say they have ambitions to buy.”

If six and a half years seems like a long time, do keep in mind that it’s the middle of the spectrum. On the low end of the spectrum were affordable markets like Cleveland, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Detroit, Michigan. In Pittsburgh, for example, the median home value is $140,600. Renters there typically spend 26.3 percent of their incomes on housing, too, making it easier to save 20 percent of one’s income per month and achieve a downpayment of $28,120 in just under four years.

Near the other end of the spectrum are more competitive markets like Miami, Florida; Boston, Massachusetts; and New York, New York. Renters there have to save for over a decade to buy a home—according to the HotPads report t it would take somewhere between 11.5 and 12 years in these cities if renters saved 20 percent of their income per month.

And that’s not even the actual end of the spectrum: In places like Los Angeles or San Diego, California, it can take up to 22 years to save up for a down payment—and that’s assuming renters can save 20 percent of their income per month. It might even take longer as renters in these markets spend up to 55 percent of their income on housing as is. And of course, the longest it takes to save up a down payment? San Francisco, where it takes 31.5 years on an income of $71,303 to afford the $189,960 down payment.

Want to see more about your city? See the full analysis on Hotpad’s blog.