The majority (70 percent) of first-time home buyers spanning three generations still believe homeownership is part of the American Dream, according to a new study by The Zebra. But it’s important to be financially prepared.

The Zebra analyzed spending habits, preparations and motivations to purchase a home across three generations of home buyers: Generation Z, Millennials and Generation X. The study found shifting priorities and sentiments as homeowners aged, as well as a marked difference in preparations for home buying:

Generation Z (ages 18-23) was the most racially diverse generation of first-time homeowners and are most motivated by the desire to live in a better area. They are also more likely to focus on aesthetics than financials, the study found. Gen Z are 14 percent likelier to plan for home furnishings and decor than to compare home insurance policies, and 20 percent likelier to plan decor than compare home loans as part of their preparations for homeownership. Gen Z has the largest share of uninsured homeowners, with 15 percent reporting they have no home insurance. They are also unlikely to have much of a financial buffer: 56 percent have emergency funds of $1,000 or less, and 24 percent have less than $500 in emergency savings. More than half (56 percent) of Gen Z respondents relied on their parents as their top source of advice during the home-buying process.

Millennials (ages 24-39) are primarily motivated by their new and growing families (31 percent) or their desire to build equity (35 percent) as they search for their first homes. They are also the most financially prepared generation: the vast majority (82 percent) saved for a down payment; 35 percent reported emergency funds of over $2,000; and 88 percent purchased a home insurance policy. Unlike Gen Z, where 44 percent moved straight from their parents’ home to their own, 75 percent of millennials were renting a house or apartment before they bought their home.

Generation X (ages 40-55) believe the most in homeownership as part of the American Dream (79 percent), and 44 percent said wanting to achieve the goal or milestone of homeownership was a top reason to buy a home. Gen X has the strongest and most mixed feelings about homeownership. Half say that homeownership is harder than expected, and 23 percent regret buying a home. Gen X homeowners trust their spouses and partners the most of any generation, with 50 percent saying that’s who they primarily relied on for advice while looking for homes.


The Zebra’s report presents the findings of an anonymous online survey of 1,205 homeowners from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., ages 18-85 who purchased their home between six months and three years prior to taking the survey. The survey was conducted by independent research firm SurveyGizmo from August 7-12, 2020, and the results were reviewed for quality control.