March 12, 2019

Fake it ‘Til You Make It: Americans are Buying Homes, But Can’t Afford the Down Payment

Fifty-six percent of Americans aspire to buy a home, but forty percent cite affording a down payment as the greatest financial barrier to homeownership 

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – The American Dream of owning a home is still alive, as millennials are prioritizing purchasing a home ahead of getting married, paying off debt and traveling, according to the latest COUNTRY Financial Security Index®.  

However, although millennials hope to own a home one day, many say the down payment is their biggest barrier when it comes to purchasing. In fact, forty-six percent of millennials and forty percent of Americans overall cited affording a down payment as the greatest financial barrier to homeownership, with the second most cited reason for Americans overall being that rent is more affordable (18 percent).  

“Purchasing a home is much more than paying for a place to live; it’s a major investment of both time and money,” said Doyle Williams, an executive vice president at COUNTRY Financial®. “Homebuyers should look beyond the initial cost of the down payment to the expenses of maintaining and protecting a home before making the investment. Some may not think it’s worth the cost and effort at this time in their lives, but for many, owning a home is worthwhile.” 

Americans skimping on the down payment 

Although the down payment continues to be a barrier for most Americans, it’s not stopping them from purchasing a home. In fact, many Americans reported making small down payments to afford their homes.  

More than half of Americans (54 percent) reported putting down 10 percent or less of their mortgage loan on a new home purchase, while one in three (36 percent) said they put five percent or less of their mortgage loan on their down payment.  

Millennials eager to buy homes 

When it comes to age, millennials are the most eager homebuyers of the bunch. They are even the most likely to purchase a home in the next one to two years when compared with other age groups: 18-34 (21 percent), 35-49 (6 percent), 50-64 (6 percent), 65+ (5 percent).  

If given $25,000 tomorrow, more millennials (26 percent) would rather put this newfound money toward a down payment for a new home or pay off a mortgage than use it to pay off their credit card debts (17 percent) or student loan debts (16 percent). By contrast, most Americans between the ages of 35-49 would rather pay off their credit card debt (33 percent) or invest it (20 percent).  

While buying a home is a priority for millennials, other age groups have different concerns. Most Americans aged 35-49 selected paying off debt (67 percent) as their greatest priority, while those aged 50-64 selected retiring (72 percent). For the majority of Americans overall, paying off debt is a top concern.  

Renting vs. buying

Home ownership is a top priority for most millennials, but the stark reality is that two-thirds of homeowners are still working to pay off their mortgages.  

Eleven percent of Americans say that 40 percent or more of their salary goes toward their monthly mortgage payments, while one in five American renters (21 percent) claim to spend 40 percent or more of their salary on rent. 

Almost half of American renters (47 percent) say they believe a mortgage payment would be less expensive than their rent, but 24 percent admit they have no plans to purchase a home within the next four years. This discrepancy potentially stems from half of Americans thinking it would take four or more years to save up for a down payment. 

COUNTRY Financial’s Security Index also found that many Americans are working to pay off their mortgage into retirement age. In fact, more than one in three Americans are still doing so after they turn 65 years old (33 percent). Nearly seven in 10 Americans ages 50-64 are paying off a mortgage (68 percent), and eight in 10 Americans ages 49 or younger are as well.  

“It’s important for those nearing retirement to consider how much home they need for their lifestyle, and how much maintenance they’re willing to take on,” continued Williams. Nonetheless, only about six percent

of American homeowners regret or somewhat regret purchasing a home, suggesting that despite the extensive time it can take to pay off a mortgage, Americans still feel that it is a worthwhile investment.

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COUNTRY Financial® is a family of affiliated companies (collectively, COUNTRY) located in Bloomington, IL. Learn more about who we are.

About The COUNTRY Financial Security Index®

Since 2007, the COUNTRY Financial Security Index has measured Americans' sentiments of their personal financial security. The Index also delves deeper into individual personal finance topics to better inform Americans about the issues impacting their finances. Survey data, videos and analysis are available at The COUNTRY Financial Security Index was created by COUNTRY Financial and is compiled by Ipsos an independent research firm. Surveys were conducted using Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®, a national, probability-based panel designed to be representative of the general population and includes responses from approximately 1,006 U.S. adults for national surveys. The margin of sampling error for a survey based on this many interviews is approximately +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.

About COUNTRY Financial®

The COUNTRY Financial® group ( serves about one million households and businesses throughout the United States. It offers a wide range of financial products and services from auto, home, business and life insurance to retirement planning services, investment management and annuities.  

Visit COUNTRY Financial on Twitter @HelloCountry, on Facebook @COUNTRYFinancial and on Instagram @countryfinancial.  

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