A study by independent think tank the Urban Institute dove into the data, revealing the notable financial impact delaying homeownership can have on an individual’s overall financial picture as they near retirement.
Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics – which includes data collected from individuals since 1968 – the institute assessed info from homeowners who turned 60 between 2003 and 2015.
It found that half the adults in its sample bought their first house between the ages of 25 and 34, while 27% purchased a home before age 25.
By comparison, only 37% of households in 2016 were headed by those ages 25 to 34.
When assessing the financial health of the homeowners in its dataset, the institute determined that those who purchased their first home between ages 25 and 34 had the greatest amount of wealth in their 60s, with close to $150,000 in median home equity at age 60 or 61.
“The impact of these earlier purchases is significant,” authors Laurie Goodman and Jung Hyun Choi wrote. “Those who bought their houses later have significantly lower housing wealth.”
The authors note that just 10 years of home appreciation can have a lasting impact, pointing to a $72,000 difference in median housing wealth between first-time homebuyers ages 25 and 34 and those who waited until they were 35 to 44.
For those who waiting until they were 45 or older, the difference was as great as $100,000.
But while those who purchased a home before age 25 have less equity than those ages 25 to 34 – mainly because they purchased lower-priced homes – they saw the largest return on their investment.
“The bottom line is, those who bought houses before age 25 got the biggest bang for their housing buck,” the authors wrote. “For those who bought their first homes when they were younger, greater home equity came from home price appreciation and paying down their mortgage debt.”
The study states that those who purchased between ages 25 to 34 end up living in more expensive homes in their 60s than those who bought earlier or later, with a median home value at $240,000 by age 60 or 61.
“Our analysis shows that those who bought their first home earlier are financially better off in their 60s. This suggests that deferring home purchases could have long-term economic consequences for Millennials and the nation’s economic well-being,” the authors wrote.
“As people age into retirement, they rely more heavily on their wealth rather than their income to support their lifestyles,” they continued. “Today’s young adults are failing to build housing wealth, the largest single source of wealth, at the same rate as previous generations.”