04/22/2013 03:54 pm ET Updated Jun 22, 2013

America's Evolving Values: First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage -- But What About Your First Home Together?

We know that American values are changing and that cultural trends serve as a good indicator of where the country is headed. Among student loans and delaying marriage until midlife, millennial couples have been leaving their mark by leading a significant cultural shift in how people both buy and sell homes. While recent findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show living together serves as a testing ground for marriage, we wanted to dive into this trend to discuss why Gen Y is waiting to go down the road to marital bliss, and instead purchase a home first.

Partnering with Coldwell Banker Real Estate
, we investigated the emotions behind the homebuying process through a national survey that indentified how America's values are evolving and changing perceptions of making a decision to purchase a home. What we found through the survey is a significant trend revealing that 1 in 4 young couples are buying a home together before tying the knot. People are still commitment minded, but the way they are expressing their commitment is changing. In a way, a home has become the new engagement ring.

This is a huge movement within the American culture. While younger generations may be focusing more on their career and in turn waiting longer to get married and have children, they are not delaying their dream of homeownership. Life goals and expectations will always weigh on young couples, but their views of homeownership are taking precedence in transcending their plans of marriage and starting a family. This is an interesting and significant cultural shift on the patterns of buying a home altogether.

In a way similar to how buying a new dress may motivate some women to lose weight, purchasing a home together may motivate some couples to get married. Young couples are still thinking about their career, investments, being financially secure and being able to make that commitment, but many are choosing to tackle these other life experiences under one roof. After all, going at it together can make the experience of purchasing a home all the more meaningful.

Purchasing a home with someone else is a very personal decision. It's not only a significant commitment to one's self, but it's also a commitment to the other person, to the community and to a family. Needless to say, the fact that so many young couples are purchasing homes together shows that people are still commitment minded, but what's more interesting is that we're seeing people become more liberally minded and adjust traditional priorities to change the order in which they express their commitment.

As you may expect, the trend of young couples purchasing a home together before marriage does vary from region to region across the United States. We found that married Americans in the South were more likely to have waited until being married to purchase their first home together; however those in the Midwest always planned to own a home after getting married. So, where people live does have an effect on how they view homeownership and where it falls in the American dream in relation to marriage.

When I think of the South I think of it being a much more traditional place. Once you get to the Northeast people are more into pragmatics. They aren't necessarily stopped by the traditional ABC of things. It's a more liberal mindset, and the people are perhaps more progressive and willing to set and explore new trends. In the Northeast, people are exposed to people living different lifestyles, opening up the choices they give themselves.

Regardless of where they love, young married Americans are much more likely to have purchased a home before marriage than members of the Boomer generation. It's an interesting and significant cultural shift in the timing and order in which people buy homes, but it's also confirmation that young couples are still looking for commitment, even if they are delaying marriage.

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