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In New York, starter homes are a thing of the past

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New Yorkers buy later in life and stay put longer than the national average

Sixty one percent of buyers in New York are first-timers.
Max Touhey

Sometimes living in New York feels like trading the old American Dream of a home of one’s own for city living. But a new StreetEasy study says that isn’t necessarily so—it’s just that New Yorkers are becoming homeowners later in life than the national average (for all of the obvious economic reasons.)

But what’s surprising is that once New Yorkers become homeowners, they live in their properties longer than the national average, who prefer to buy their forever home rather than the telltale starter. In other words, the starter home is a thing of the past in New York.

There’s a few reasons for this: In the city, homes cost three times more than the national average—the median price is $637,250 in the city versus $230,100 nationwide—so prospective homeowners have to put off buying until it’s financially feasible. It also takes New Yorkers longer to save the down purchase of a home within the five boroughs.

If millennial-aged New Yorkers—who earn a median income of $70,406 annually—are putting away 10 percent of their gross annual income, it would still take them roughly 18 years compared to the national average to save the 20 percent down purchase of a median home in New York. (Millennials, roughly defined as those born in the 1980s and 1990s, make up just 54 percent of first-time buyers in New York compared to 61 percent nationwide.) Despite that long lead time, New Yorkers are only three years older on average, at 37, than the typical American when they buy their first home.

A smaller down payment can make purchasing a home more affordable: Almost half of New York’s first-time buyers pay a smaller down payment than the traditional 20 percent, between 10 and 19 percent. Only 25 percent of first-time buyers stick with the traditional 20 percent in New York.

Young New Yorkers, who in general wait longer to start families, favor the flexibility of renting rather than buying a place with spare bedrooms and waiting it out with the hopes of having a family. But once New Yorkers do nab their first pad, they stay in place longer than the national average. A whopping 71 percent of New York buyers live in their first purchased home, and stay there for a median of 18 years. A full 60 percent of New York homeowners have no plans to sell their home.

Although New Yorkers are purchasing their first homes later than the national average, they purchase their second homes (or investment properties) eight years earlier. The median age of a buyer who has owned one or more homes in the past is 44 in New York, compared to 52 nationwide.

Part of the reason for this is that New Yorkers younger than 44 earn more than those older than 44, which is the opposite of how it works nationwide. Repeat homebuyers also often put down more than the typical down payment, typically owing to equity from past properties.

To conduct its study, StreetEasy partnered with public opinion and data company YouGov. They polled 2,550 New Yorkers throughout the five boroughs through a general market sampling of New Yorkers who rented within the last year, renters who did not move within the last year, buyers and sellers who completed a transaction within the last year, and homeowners who did not move within the last year.

For more on StreetEasy’s methodology, check out the full report.