Americans waiting longer than ever to buy first homes

WASHINGTON - The real estate data firm Zillow finds that people buying a home for the first time are older than they used to be and are waiting longer than previous generations.

The analysis finds that the typical first-timer now rents for six years before buying a home, up from 2.6 years in the early 1970s. The median first-time buyer is 33. A generation ago, the age was roughly 30.

Boiled down, the main reasons appear to be that younger Americans are short of cash and unsettled in their careers.

And when they do sign the deed, their purchase price is now nearly 2.6 times their income. In the early 1970s, the starter home was just 1.7 times their income.

The shifts help explain why homeownership, long a source of middle class identity and economic opportunity, has started to decline. It's at a 48-year low.