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Emily Starbuck Crone

Emily's list: first-time homebuyer edition

It's a buyer's market in the world of real estate right now, and many of my late-20s peers are itching to snatch up a house with prices and interest rates so low. But most of us either don't have enough savings or enough credit history to qualify. According to data from the National Association of Realtors, that means that first-time homebuyers are becoming rarer in the market, and those who do buy are turning to their parents for help.

"First-time home buyers fell to a 37 percent market share in the past year from a record high 50 percent in the 2010 study," said NAR President Ron Phipps in a release accompanying the November 2011 study. "Although last year's findings were boosted by the home buyer tax credit, long-term survey averages show that four out of 10 buyers are typically first-time buyers. This segment is critical to a housing recovery because they help existing home owners sell and make a trade."

Parents help out in a third of the first-time home purchases. Some give the funds as loans (7 percent), but most gift it (26 percent), according to NAR data. 

First-time homebuyer

Sometimes, that makes for difficult choices. I have several friends whose parents told them that if they agreed to elope instead of have a big wedding, the parents would contribute the would-be wedding money to a home instead.

What makes me nervous about this is that if you can't afford a mortgage on your own, can you really afford a home? Owning a home means you pay for homeowner's insurance, maintenance, any homeowner's association fees and property taxes. Even if my parents did help me buy a house, I don't think I'm financially prepared to incur all of those other costs that go along with being a homeowner, and I'm worried that some of my peers who buy homes with parents' help may not realize how much more expensive overall it can be than renting.

Don't get me wrong -- I'd love to own a home someday. But I'm in no rush. I'm still celebrating the fact that I escaped the holidays without credit card debt!

Keep reading for my list of my favorite personal finance blog posts from the past week.

1. I'm amazed by how much gift wrap and presents cost. Before Valentine's Day gets here, read this post by The Sun's Financial Diary about frugal gift-wrapping ideas.

2. Dinks Finance shares the ins and outs of her new budgeting challenge for the first six months of 2012: no nonessential spending!

3. If one of your New Year's resolutions is to shed your debt, read this post by No Credit Needed about how he managed to overcome his consumer debt.

4. Careful Cents explains why she loves goals, but isn't setting any New Year's resolutions this year.

5. Cash Money Life discusses the new "American Dream" and five ways to build financial security for yourself.

6. When does being frugal go too far? Blogging Away Debt shares an anecdote that reveals there is a line between being frugal and being cheap.

7. Rich Credit Debt Loan lists four ways you can improve your personal finances and better manage your money.

8. Frugal Dad helps readers who went overboard on holiday spending learn how to clean up the damage and get back on track.

9. PT Money emphasizes the importance of reviewing your credit report and fixing any errors.

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