The National Association of REALTORS®’ Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers report found that in 2022, the typical first-time home buyer was 36 years old. This is three years older than the year before and marks a steady trend in the rising age of when individuals buy their first home, pointing to how increasingly difficult it is to break into the housing market. 

Young potential homebuyers face many new challenges, whether the high cost of living prevents individuals from saving for a down payment or interest rates have made a monthly mortgage payment unattainable. However, this hasn’t stopped people from purchasing their first homes in the past few years. Some lucky individuals could purchase homes against all odds, which begs the question: how did they do it?

In this study, Today’s Homeowner surveyed roughly 3,000 American homeowners to get a better sense of how people who bought homes in the past three years were able to break into one of the most challenging housing markets in American history. We asked first-time homebuyers about their experience during the process and any regrets they had. Check out our Methodology section for more details on how we collected and analyzed the data.

Main Findings

  • More than nine in 10 recent first-time homebuyers reported trying to time the market with their home purchases. 
  • Despite elevated stress levels during home buying, most new homeowners said the process took one to two months. 
  • Nearly 56% of successful homebuyers submitted an offer either during or directly following the home showing to increase their chances of approval. 
  • More than four in 10 recent first-time homebuyers have regrets about their home buying experience.

Timing Home Purchase

Timing the market among individuals — especially when it comes to investing — is known to be a losing strategy. In a recent study from Charles Schwab, researchers looked at five hypothetical investors. They found that given the downsides to bad market timing and the difficulty of having perfect market timing, investors should generally prioritize time in the market compared to market timing. 

Like investing, timing the real estate market can be difficult and have significant downsides. Tyrone Foster from Fast Company reports:

“…the real estate market is notoriously unpredictable. We can generally predict that housing prices will rise over time because that’s how they’ve historically developed. But from year to year, and decade to decade, even our best real estate experts and economists are forced to shrug their shoulders.” 

Despite this unpredictability, many recent first-time homebuyers report attempting (whether successfully or not) to time the housing market with their purchase. According to many of those buyers — nearly 43% — home prices were the most important factor affecting when they bought a home. Mortgage rates and the general economic environment follow this. 

Meanwhile, though stock market performance may affect how much individuals can allocate for a down payment, less than 9% of buyers who timed the market said that was the most important factor affecting their purchase timing.

Length and Difficulty of Home Purchase

A majority of homeowners surveyed found the homebuying process both difficult and stressful. Nearly 65% of respondents say the process was either significantly or slightly more difficult than expected. Moreover, on a scale of one to 10 (where one indicates no reported stress and 10 indicates very high stress), close to 60% of homebuyers reported stress levels of seven or higher. 

Of the difficulties faced by purchasers, finding a home to move into within their budget was cited most commonly. A fact mirrored by the skyrocketing price of homes over the past three years. From February 2020 to February 2023, Zillow data shows that the median home price in the U.S. rose from roughly $285,200 to $371,900 — an increase of nearly 30.4%. 

Price negotiations with the seller and finding homes with specific features were also cited as top difficulties. Roughly 41% of respondents said price negotiations were one of the most difficult parts of their homebuying process, while nearly 39% said the same about finding homes with specific features.

Though many homeowners reported finding the homebuying process both difficult and stressful, the timeline for most purchasers was short. Roughly 85% of purchasers say that their process took six months or less. About 6% of buyers reported that they purchased a home in less than a month and roughly 40% of buyers purchased a home between one and two months.

Increasing Chances of Offer Approval

Given the competitive nature of the housing market over the past three years, many recent first-time homebuyers took certain steps to ensure their offers were approved. Firstly, successful buyers moved quickly. Nearly 56% of surveyed respondents said that they submitted an offer during or directly following the home showing. 

Additionally, roughly 54% of survey respondents reported providing a cash offer. This figure is significantly higher than the reported number of homes bought in cash (roughly 30% throughout 2022, according to recent Redfin data), suggesting that some first-time homebuyers may have offered cash to break into the market but then looked to financing following approval. 

Less than one in five buyers reported forgoing inspections or writing a personal letter to the seller — two things real estate experts generally advise against. In waiving a home inspection, homeowners risk getting stuck with expensive repairs that drastically increase their housing budget. Realtors also generally warn against writing personal letters to home sellers as the approach could potentially violate fair-housing laws and lead to discrimination.

Home Buying Regrets

Most recent first-time homebuyers feel very or moderately comfortable with how much they spend monthly on their mortgage. Less than 12% of respondents said their monthly mortgage feels slightly or significantly over budget. 

However, recent buyers commonly have regrets (including budgeting and other concerns). Nearly 39% of surveyed first-time homebuyers report regrets on their purchase, with some citing multiple regrets. 

The top regret among those individuals is spending too much money on their homes. This is followed closely by missing specific features in the home they bought and not looking around at all available home options.

Some of these regrets can be addressed going forward. For instance, if interest rates drop, homeowners may refinance and lower their monthly mortgage bill. Similarly, homeowners may be able to add on missing specific features in the home they bought through remodeling. Others, though, may stick with homeowners. While homeowners may move or sell and buy a new home, the commonly cited regret of not looking around at all available options is difficult to address. 


Today’s Homeowner surveyed roughly 3,000 new American homeowners using a third-party platform. We specifically considered homeowners who bought their first home in the past three years. Survey data for this report was collected in March 2023.

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Editorial Contributors
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Stephanie Horan

Lead Data Analyst

Stephanie Horan is a lead data analyst and journalist for the research team at Today’s Homeowner. Stephanie is a Certified Educator of Personal Finance (CEPF®). Beginning her career in asset management and transitioning to data journalism, she is passionate about bringing data to life and empowering individuals to make informed home buying and home improvement decisions.

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