Saving for a down payment can be a struggle for renters looking to buy – research shows that down payments are significant hurdle to becoming a homeowner, and that rising rents are making it harder for renters to save.
However, our latest analysis finds that renters can afford a down payment nearly three years sooner if they cut out their housing expenses. For most people, that probably means moving back in with Mom or Dad (or anyone else who lets them live rent-free).
Here’s how the math checks out. The median home value in the U.S. is $225,300, meaning a 20 percent down payment is about $45,000. We analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and found that renters typically save 16.5 percent of their income after accounting for housing costs each month – which means a renter making the median annual income would have enough money saved for a 20 percent down payment on the median home after eight years.
But if a typical renter removed their housing expenses and increased their monthly savings proportionally, they could have $45,000 saved after five years and two months – two years and 10 months sooner than those who pay rent and save for their down payment at the same time.
Saving for eight years while paying the rent – or living with parents for five years and two months – may seem like a lot. However, 60 percent of first-time buyers put down less than 20 percent on their home purchase. A typical renter looking to put 10 percent down on the median home ($22,530) needs just four years to save for a down payment, while someone with the typical renter income and no housing expenses typically could save this amount after two years and seven months.
Of course, these numbers can change depending on where you live – in some areas like Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area, saving for even a 10 percent down payment can take more than a decade. In other areas, such as Pittsburgh and Cleveland, renters living at home can save for a 10 percent down payment in fewer than two years.
To see how long it can take renters to save for a down payment in some of the country’s largest markets, take a look at the chart below.