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U.S. first-time homebuyers missed billions in work time house hunting

Reading Time — 7 minutes

October 28, 2021

By Kerry Melcher

Reading Time — 7 minutes

October 28, 2021

When Chase Rivera moved to the states from Australia, he knew he wanted to buy his first home one day. After years of saving and building credit, he finally found himself in a good spot. However, when he started his home search last year he was surprised at how difficult it was.

“Coordinating home tours with my schedule, my agent’s schedule, and sellers’ schedules was a nightmare,” Chase recalls. “When I finally was able to look at a home, I felt immense pressure as I walked around. On top of that, homes in Dallas were selling like hotcakes, in just a few days and with all-cash offers.”

And Chase isn’t alone. Many first-time homebuyers across the country are sinking even more time, emotional energy and overall effort into an already stressful home buying process, all to make their dreams of homeownership a reality.

So what’s behind their strong desire to own a home, and what are the most time-consuming challenges they encounter along the way? We partnered with Wakefield Research to uncover the sentiment behind the stories and reveal some of first-time buyers’ biggest pain points, the most difficult parts of the process, and what they would do differently next time.

Time is money: Home shoppers report missing $845 million in work to buy a home

From finding and touring available homes to making a compelling offer in a wildly competitive housing market, an overwhelming 79% of first-time homebuyers had to miss an average of 14 hours of work—nearly two full workdays—to win their first home. That equates to over $845 million worth of work time spent by people buying their first homes in the U.S.*

For first-time homebuyers, keeping up in a competitive housing market calls for checking, and re-checking, home listings. More than half of buyers checked for new listings once a day or more—on average, they checked 7 times in a single day!

Those who purchased a home in the past month checked home listings an average of eight times a day, nearly double the amount of time spent by those who bought within the past six months.

Buyers in today’s hot market are also spending a significant amount of time taking home tours. The average first-time homebuyer toured an overwhelming 15 homes in person or virtually—including a third who toured 20 homes or more.

Realities of the market challenges facing first-time homebuyers

Across the country, nearly three in five first-time homebuyers felt the market was more competitive than they expected. More than half say they encountered a process more time-consuming than imagined when buying a home.

Nearly all first-time homebuyers—a full 85%—had challenges when it came to making an offer on a home, which is not surprising in today’s market. Many said the market is simply too confusing for a first-timer, noting their personal lack of real estate market knowledge and a more general lack of information available on homes.

First-timers remain resilient, despite challenges

An overwhelming 98% of first-time homebuyers lost a home they were interested in. With so many offers being submitted, it’s becoming more and more difficult to win a dream home.

In total, Chase toured about 40 homes before finding “the one.” He turned to Opendoor and was able to win his dream home. What helped Chase stand out? “The ability to use an Opendoor Backed Offer was the determining factor,” Chase stated. “In fact, this particular seller would only entertain cash offers.” With this service, Opendoor backs buyers’ offers with cash at no additional cost, giving them the power to put forward the most competitive bid for their dream home.

Nearly three in five first-time homebuyers (56%) made five or more offers before purchasing their current home, averaging 10 offers apiece. Nearly one in three (27%) put in 10 or more.

Motivators behind homeownership desires

With the time-consuming nature of home shopping and the frustration buyers feel when making multiple offers, why are Americans still so motivated to buy a home in a competitive market?

More than half of first-time homebuyers say family is the top reason they decided to purchase a home. Space is also an important consideration for many: nearly half of first-time buyers purchased their home because they needed more space, particularly first-time buyers who are also parents.

For others, the decision is often rooted in spending money wisely: 46% of buyers cited peace of mind as a top reason they decided to purchase over renting, while another 42% say buying is a smart investment.

Hindsight is 20/20: First-time homebuyers reflect on lessons learned

After making their first purchase, many homebuyers look back and see where they made mistakes and want to offer helpful advice to others. Remarkably, 92% of first-time homebuyers say they would do something differently if in the market for a new home.

Nearly a third would self-tour homes in person next time, while 28% indicate they would tour homes digitally instead. 33% note they would bring family or friends along to visit homes in the future, serving as an extra set of eyes.

First-time homebuyers also say they would still do more to improve their knowledge before buying a home. In fact, 35% wish they did more research, and 37% say they would get a home inspection next time.

Was it worth it? First-time homebuyers say ‘Yes’

Buying your first home can be a time-consuming experience, but approaching it with the right mindset can help ensure it’s an exciting one as well. Remember: Buying a home is romance (and selling a home is finance!). It’s important to have patience and embrace each step of the process while on the journey to find “the one.” Your perfect home could be right around the next corner.

Though it’s common to encounter feelings of frustration while navigating time-consuming challenges, 82% of first-time buyers retrospectively report that their experience was enjoyable overall—highlighting the opportunity for their next home buying experience to be even better.

And in the end, Chase did too. “After downloading the Opendoor app, the process became fun. It was so easy to tour homes on my timeline and I found everyone in the Opendoor ecosystem to be extremely helpful. I even became friends with one of my tour assistants!”

Are you searching for your dream home? Download the Opendoor app to begin searching for homes and see how we can help you save time and money in finding the home of your dreams.


The Opendoor Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research (www.wakefieldresearch.com) among 1,000 nationally representative U.S. first-time home buyers ages 18+, between September 23rd and October 5th, 2021, using an email invitation and an online survey. The data has been weighted to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the U.S. first-time homebuyer population ages 18+.

Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation. The magnitude of the variation is measurable and is affected by the number of interviews and the level of the percentages expressing the results. For the interviews conducted in this particular study, the chances are 95 in 100 that a survey result does not vary, plus or minus, by more than 3.1 percentage points from the result that would be obtained if interviews had been conducted with all persons in the universe represented by the sample.

*To get to this illustrative number of $845 million dollars in work time to buy a home, we use the median salary of first-time homebuyers (~$67K), calculate their hourly rate, multiply times the average number of hours house hunting (which survey found was 14 hours). We then multiply that number by 79% of the 2.38 million first-time homebuyers for the total cost. ($67,342/2097 hour x 14 hours missed) x 1.88 million first-time homebuyers in 2020 = $845,317,119 worth of work.

Further reading

How to determine how much home you can afford

How to determine how much home you can afford