They closed on their ranch home in Seymour in June.
"It's definitely been an adjustment," said Machowski, 31. "But we felt this was really a good time to do this."
Across the nation, young homebuyers have been trickling out of the market since the housing bubble burst. But now, with low prices and low mortgage interest rates, local real estate agents are seeing their return.
In fact, Machowski said it was the "great interest rates" on mortgages that convinced her and Molyneux to take the plunge.
"We got in just under the wire with low interest rates," she said. "We also got a great price on our home."
Census figures show that 13 percent of owner-occupied homes in 2005 were owned by Americans younger than 35, but that figure dropped to 10.3 percent in 2011. That loss represents a little more than 2 million young Americans who disappeared from the homeownership ranks during the six-year window.
"In the height of the market, we saw people coming right out of college or as soon as they'd secured a job, either buying a condo or a house. They were really focused on that," Hebert said this week. "Then, when the housing market turned, they saw some of their friends get stung by that, and they've held off a bit. But we're starting to see them come back into the market again."
In southwestern Connecticut, the ratio of young owners is lower than the national average, even in the best of times, thanks in large part to a catalog of homes best suited for those with a champagne budget.
Of the 31 towns and cities in our area, only five have a higher share of young owners than the national average, from 10.4 percent in Norwalk to 13.9 percent in Naugatuck. The majority fall somewhere between New Canaan's 1.5 percent and Bethel and Seymour's 9.5 percent, according to census data from 2011, the most recent year available.
But according to Hebert, the years since 2011 are likely to paint a different picture.
"In 2011, that was really a quiet year here," she said. "I think that was probably the bottom-bottom of the market. Then in 2012, we started to see things really perk up, especially in the second half. And it's been strong ever since. We've had a very strong 2013."
Timing is everything.
It was the right time to buy for Ben Flemma and his wife, Maggie Supple, who recently moved from the small cottage they were renting in Darien to the 250-year-old home they purchased on Riverside Drive in Trumbull.
"We started looking for a home and looked at 12 others, but kept coming back to the first one we saw," he said. "We went from two-tenths of an acre to two acres."
At first, he said, his wife was apprehensive about the purchase, and they even withdrew an initial bid on the home. The day after, the price dropped, "and we paid about $70,000 less than the assessment value, he said, adding he was glad his wife had cold feet.
Besides the price, it was the low interest rate that sealed the deal for the first-time home buyers.
"Our interest rate is just a hair over 3 percent," Flemma said.
Squirreling away enough money for a downpayment is a major barrier for renters looking to buy their first home. According to a Gallup Poll conducted in April, 45 percent of renters said they can't afford to buy a home because of a lack of money for the downpayment. And it's not just the financial reasons that can keep first-time homebuyers out of the market. With one in nine renters reporting they move a lot for their jobs, a lack of permanent plans can push people out of the market.
Emily Fields, a 25-year-old teacher at Stamford's Toquam Magnet Elementary School who moved to Stamford a little more than a year ago from her family's home in Newtown, falls into that camp. At this stage in her life, when she's weighing the idea of heading back to graduate school for her sixth-year degree, she isn't ready to make such a permanent decision, she said.
"I don't know where I want to be in like five years or so," Fields said. "It's like, I'm not dating someone who I feel like is the love of my life, so owning is a big commitment right now."
It's not just the uncertainty of her future that keeps her renting; it's also the responsibility.
"There's the idea of the down payment, but also the maintenance if something goes wrong," Fields said. "You have to mow the lawn and all the responsibility that comes with it. I feel like it's more that than even the money. I don't want to take care of all that."
She's not alone. Ten percent of renters said renting is more convenient than owning, thanks to easier maintenance, in the recent Gallup Poll.
Machowski would agree that you take on a lot of new responsibility with homeownership. Already, she said, they've had to clear off lots of trees from her Oak Hill Road property, and she expects other projects will arise down the road. "But we are ready for the commitment."
So were Flemma and his wife, self-described "late bloomers." Flemma is 41, his wife, 37.
"I guess we just decided to settle down later in life," he said. But, he added, buying when they did was a "classic example of taking advantage of this market."
He added there's also another reason for getting a bigger space. "We are expecting our first child in January," he said.
In a speech in Arizona earlier this week, President Barack Obama said he wants to re-emphasize the importance of owning a home as part of the American dream, calling homeownership one of the "cornerstones of what it means to be middle class in America."
"A home is supposed to be our ultimate evidence that in America, hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded," Obama said in his speech as he invited listeners to think back to his grandfather's generation.
"To him, and to generations of Americans before and since, a home was more than just a house," the president said. "A home was a source of pride and security. It was a place to raise children, put down roots, and build up savings for college, or a business, or retirement."
Staff writer Anne M. Amato contributed to this report.
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