First-time buyers, usually between the ages of 25 and 34, are an important source of incremental housing demand, as they are at the start of a chain of housing transactions. The reduction in demand for "starter homes" has left existing homeowners who want to move on to bigger, more expensive properties in a bind as the pool of people willing to buy their homes has shrunk.


Many, like Andrea and James, have moved back home. Almost 6m Americans between 25 and 34 lived with their parents in 2011, up from 4.7m when the recession began in 2007, the Census Bureau said.

Brad Doremus, senior analyst at Reis, the commercial real estate research group, said first-time buyers are particularly hurt by tighter mortgage requirements that are even harder to meet with growing student debt burdens.


Roshell Schenck, 28, from Erie, Pennsylvania, has a PhD in pharmacy and earns $125,000 a year -- but yet she is unable to own a home.

"Between undergraduate and doctorate schooling and interest, I now have approximately $120,000 in loans," she said. "Although I make a very good salary, there is no government help for housing programmes because of the amount of money I make and there is no one willing to give me a loan because of the amount of student loan debt I have."

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