The Bankrate promise
At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for .
When you think about everything that homeownership entails, your thoughts probably range from managing a mortgage to staying on top of maintenance. And all of that is certainly true. In order to get the keys in the first place, though, you need to be able to do one thing: legally sign a contract.
If your home state doesn’t yet consider you a legal adult, you can’t sign for the house or the loan you’ll likely need to finance it. So, at what age can you buy a house? It depends on what your state has set as the age of majority. The age of majority is younger than you might think — typically lower than the legal drinking age. But even if you’re technically old enough to buy a house, is it a good idea? Let’s find out.
At what age can you legally buy a house?
The law specifies an age at which you can legally vote, and legally buy alcohol, but it does not specify an age at which you may become a homeowner. Instead, the line is drawn in a different way: Each state defines its age of majority, or the age at which a resident is legally considered an adult. You can legally buy property when you reach the age of majority, which in most states is 18 years old. (There are three exceptions: In Alabama and Nebraska the age of majority is 19, and in Mississippi, it’s 21.)
Before you reach the age of majority, you are legally considered a minor. And a minor can’t legally sign the contracts required for a real estate transaction. In some states a minor’s name might be put on the home title, but he or she won’t be able to do anything with it until they reach the age of majority. This happens when parents put their children on the title then pass away, for example. In such a case, a custodianship, trust or guardianship is generally established to hold the property until the minor comes of age.
The situation is the same in the case of buying with a co-signer. Even if your parent or another adult is willing to sign on with you, a co-signing situation would still require your own signature. And until you reach the age of majority, that’s not an option.
Mortgage obstacles for young homebuyers
You need to wait until the age of majority to buy a home. But even once you’re of age, you’ll have to carefully consider your ability to get a mortgage. A young person with little to no credit history may have a difficult time getting approved for financing. Unless you’re able to make an all-cash offer on a house — a rarity for young adults early in their careers and savings-building — you’ll need to take out a loan to buy.
Mortgage lenders don’t offer six-figure loans to just anyone. To get a mortgage, you need to meet a variety of requirements, including:
- A stable income you can prove with pay stubs
- A good debt-to-income ratio
- A good credit score
- Enough money for a down payment, closing costs and ongoing upkeep costs
In other words, you need to be able to show the lender that you’re financially reliable. You may be able to legally buy a house at 18, but you generally won’t have the years of financial statements lenders want to see. As a result, getting a mortgage can be particularly difficult.
Are you ready to buy a house?
Beyond all of the legal and financial ramifications of homeownership, think through the lifestyle implications, too. If you’re thinking about buying a home, you should be prepared to stay put for at least a few years, comfortably managing the mortgage, maintenance and more.
In addition, being a first-time homebuyer before many of your friends probably means making sacrifices they won’t have to make. Renting can provide a sense of freedom — both financial and geographic — that homeowners locked into one place don’t have. That said, you can expect to learn some valuable first-time homebuyer lessons, too, and you’ll have a big head start on building home equity. Just be sure to consider the trade-offs before you make this major life decision.
Pros and cons of buying a house young
- You start building equity right away
- You don’t throw money away on rent
- You strengthen your credit through managing your mortgage
- You learn financial responsibility and budgeting skills
- You get the stability of your own home early in life
- It may be difficult to secure a mortgage
- You have to come up with a down payment and cover closing costs
- You’re locked into a fixed living situation, while friends may be bouncing around from rental to rental — or city to city
- You may have to pass on other experiences because your resources are tied up in your house
- You’re responsible for home maintenance
What age can you buy a house? Legally, somewhere between 18 and 21, depending on the age of majority in your state. But owning a home comes with a lot of responsibility, including a sizable financial burden. As a young adult, you might not want to lock yourself in just yet.