First-time buyers' share of existing-home sales was 28% in May, down from 34% in 2012. What does it mean? Competition from investors, tight credit, personal finances are all obstacles. First time buyers, unlike others, struggle more with saving a down payment, credit blemishes, and income not rising as fast as home prices. So why does it matter? First time buyers play a critical role in housing recovery, allowing current owners to move up. With rent rising, it is more affordable to buy than to rent in most markets.