Survey: Americans Have Regrets About the Dream of Home Ownership

Affordable Home Updates for Staying or Selling
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There are a number of major economic issues facing everyday Americans. Declining home ownership rates, student debt burden, over-leveraged household balance sheets, and under-saved retiring Baby Boomers. Freedom Debt Relief recently surveyed 1,028 homeowners with at least $10,000 in unsecured debt in the United States to see how they felt about the American dream of homeownership.

Key Findings

Still dreaming: Nearly 3 in 5 (59%) of homeowners feel that owning a home is part of the American Dream.

Stressed out: 29% of homeowners said homeownership makes them feel anxious and/or stressed.

It’s a burden: 26% of homeowners said the cost of owning a home is a burden and they would rather rent.

Security: 28% of homeowners felt financially secure after purchasing a house.

Homeowner Regrets

While the sentiments around homeownership are usually positive, there are still some things that Americans wish they could do over.

  • 69% of homeowners said they should have saved more for the down payment.
  • 52% said their monthly mortgage payment is too high.
  • 41% said they were not aware of all their mortgage options.
  • 60% of homeowners said they are unable to afford needed upgrades to their house.
  • 59% said that maintenance and repairs are more effort and cost than they expected.
  • 50% of homeowners said that their property taxes are higher than planned.

Millennial and Generation Z homeowners tend to think their mortgage payments and interest rates are too high, and have more regrets than older homebuyers about the types of mortgages they have.

  • Nearly 3 in 5 (58%) of Millennial homeowners said their monthly mortgage payment is too high, compared to 52% of Gen X homeowners.
  • Two-thirds (67%) of Millennial homeowners said they did not have enough savings after closing, compared to 62% of Gen X homeowners.
  • 47% of Millennial homeowners said they were not aware of all their mortgage options, compared to 41% of Gen X homeowners.

Renovations on the Horizon

Overall, 69% of homeowners plan on renovating their home in the next five years. Of those who plan on renovating, 56% said they’ll be doing flooring, 53% said they’ll be doing bathroom renovations and 51% said they’ll be doing kitchen renovations.

In addition, 1 in 4 (26%) plan on spending over $25,000 on renovations in the next five years. Another 25% plan on spending between $5,001 and $10,000. 58% plan on using cash/savings to finance renovation projects, 29% plan on using a home equity loan, and 28% plan on using a credit card. 78% of millennial homeowners plan on renovating their home in the next five years, compared to 69% of Gen X homeowners. 36% of Millennials plan on using a credit card to finance renovation projects, compared to 21% of Gen X homeowners.

Down Payment Blues

One in four (26%) of homeowners surveyed are paying private mortgage insurance or commonly known as PMI. Of those that paid PMI, 45% had a down payment that was less $5,000. In addition, 28% of homeowners said their down payment was between 1 and 5 percent. 22% said it was between 6 and 10 percent.

78% of Millennial homeowners said they should have saved more for the down payment, compared to 67% of Gen X homeowners. Furthermore, 40% of Millennial homeowners said homeownership makes them feel anxious and/or stressed, compared to 25% of Gen X homeowners.

Location, Location, Location

96% of homeowners said the monthly mortgage cost was very or somewhat important in the home purchase process. 92% said the community or neighborhood was very or somewhat important, 91% of said the crime rate was very or somewhat important and 85% said the appreciation potential for the house was very or somewhat important.

79% of homeowners said the commute to work was very or somewhat important, while 74% said the school district was very or somewhat important. Finally, only 50% of homeowners said walk-ability was very or somewhat important to them.

Hidden Costs

The top three hidden costs of home ownership that homeowners wish they had known about are: emergency fixes/unexpected costs (57%), maintenance costs (51%), and property/municipal taxes (36%). More than one-third (37%) of homeowners said on average, 20-29% of their monthly income goes to paying for their monthly mortgage. Nearly 3 in 10 (29%) said 30-49% their monthly income goes to paying for their monthly mortgage.

54% of Millennial homeowners do not know how much they spend on their house each year, compared to 43% of Gen X homeowners. The top three financing products homeowners have considered to deal with all their debt are Home Refinance (38%), Home Equity Loan (34%) and Debt Relief/Debt Settlement (24%).


Methodology: Freedom Debt Relief commissioned Atomik Research to run an online survey of 1,028 homeowners with at least $10,000 in unsecured debt in the United States. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points with a confidence interval of 95 percent. The fieldwork took place between July 3 and 14, 2019. Atomik Research is an independent creative market research agency. You can download the raw data here.

Michael Micheletti serves as the Director of Corporate Communications at Freedom Financial Network where he is responsible for the strategic communications planning, knowledge dissemination and outreach to key consumer audiences. Before joining Freedom he held a variety of high profile communication and consumer education roles focusing on healthcare, tax and housing. He is a former reporter for FOX News, CNN and served as news director for Clear Channel Radio San Francisco.