Our experts weigh in on why it's about more than location, location, location.

By Lauren Wellbank
September 15, 2020
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Getty / Tom Merton

There are a lot of perks to owning your own home, but there may be even more benefits to buying young. After all, the sooner you start paying down your mortgage debt, the sooner you start accruing equity (which is the portion of your home that you own free and clear of any debts). But not every city will afford you the ability to become a young homeowner. Between high costs of living and poor job prospects, certain areas are difficult for first-time buyers to break into.

According to a 2019 study by Wallethub, the best places for young homeowners are Tampa, Florida; Overland Park, Kansas; Thornton, Colorado; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Boise, Idaho. A number of factors went into deciding these areas, like affordability and the resident's quality of life (of these five, Grand Rapids ranked higher for the former and Thornton for the latter). Here, we tapped two realtors to find out exactly what you should keep in mind if you want to be a young homeowner—beyond location.

Consider the Future

While no one can predict the future, it does make sense to try and envision what the next five years will look like for you, says Allison Chiaramonte, a real estate agent with Warburg Realty. "Doing so reminds you to pay attention to things that might not matter today—but could be crucial down the road," she says. School districts, ease of transportation, proximity to playgrounds, and even the number of bathrooms should all be considered. "In today's market, you want to try and give yourself the longest runway in your next home possible—this allows you to stay longer in a home comfortably and hopefully gives you the leverage to time a future sale well, rather than making it one of pure necessity," she adds.

What to Look For

If you want to become a young homeowner, but are unable to relocate to the cities listed above, Chiaramonte suggests looking for areas that offer high quality of life, such as towns or cities that are walkable or have proximity to places that are especially appealing to your age demographic. "Access to transportation and outdoor recreation access (such as parks and hiking)" can be major selling point, she says. Also, consider the benefits of starting out in a new community while you're young: "It provides a sense of permanence which is really comforting to people in such a transitory time and can be a very wise financial decision."

Buying Young

Becoming a young homeowner is not without risk, however. "The downsides are that buying a home can no longer be thought of a foolproof investment," explains Chiaramonte. "Also, the way we work and live today is becoming more fluid. This flux means that what seemed like the perfect area or home then may not work for you a few years later if your family grows or you have a job switch." Still, the benefits are there, says Christopher Totaro, a real estate agent with the same firm. "Building equity is the greatest benefit," he says. "The faster one can trade a rent expense for a mortgage payment, the quicker a person will begin to build equity in their home and hence be able to buy a larger home if the need arises."

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