NAR Survey Shows First-Time Home Buyers Set Record in Past Year

sign check(1)Source, National Association of Realtors®

First-time home buyers reached the highest market share on record during the past year, according to the latest consumer survey of home buyers and sellers. The study was released here today at the 2009 REALTORS® Conference & Expo.

The 2009 National Association of Realtors® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers is the latest in a series of large national NAR surveys evaluating demographics, preferences, marketing and experiences of recent home buyers and sellers. Among national surveys, NAR’s Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers is unprecedented in size and scope.

Paul Bishop, NAR vice president of research, said several factors have been at play. “Tax incentives, record high affordability conditions and a pent-up demand brought a record share of first-time home buyers into the market,” he said. “These buyers are critical to housing and a general economic recovery because the market always heals from the bottom up – they absorb inventory, free existing owners to make a trade and stimulate related goods and services.”

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The number of first-time home buyers rose to 47 percent of all home sales from 41 percent of transactions in last year’s study, and was the highest on record dating back to 1981. The previous high was 44 percent in 1991. “It’s interesting to note the last cyclical peak of first-time home buyers was during the last noteworthy economic downturn, with first-time buyers starting the chain reaction that led the nation out of recession,” Bishop said.

The profile shows the median age of first-time buyers was 30 and the median income was $61,600. The typical first-time buyer purchased a home costing $156,000, down from $165,000 in the 2008 study, and plans to stay in that home for 10 years.

Fifty-five percent of entry level buyers reported they financed their purchase with an FHA loan, while another 8 percent used the VA loan program.

First-time buyers who made a downpayment used a variety of sources: 61 percent used savings and 22 percent received a gift from a friend or relative, typically from their parents. Six percent received a loan from a relative or friend, 6 percent tapped into a 401(k) fund, and 6 percent sold stocks or bonds. Ninety-six percent chose a fixed-rate mortgage.

First-time buyers often make financial sacrifices to purchase a home: 39 percent cut spending on luxury items, 38 percent cut back on entertainment and 30 percent cut spending on clothes.

Only 12 percent said financing their first home was more difficult than expected, but 13 percent of successful buyers said they had experienced a purchase agreement that was canceled, terminated or fell through; and 8 percent had been rejected by a lender. “This raises the question of how many potential buyers were unsuccessful because of problems with appraisals or loan qualifications,” Bishop said. “The market would be even stronger without these problems.”

NAR 2009 President Charles McMillan, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Dallas-Fort Worth, said NAR pushed hard to extend and expand the home buyer tax credit though the middle of 2010. “Some people were taking a housing recovery for granted, but we must acknowledge the abnormal situation from toxic loans that will keep foreclosures coming into the market over the coming year,” he said. “To help stem foreclosures we must first stabilize home prices, and the expansion of tax incentives should absorb enough inventory to restore balance. As the leading advocate for homeownership, NAR commends Congress for extending and expanding the tax credit because placing financially qualified buyers into affordable homes is the soundest way to heal our economy as fast as possible.”

Buyers searched a median of 12 weeks and viewed 12 homes. Among buyers who used an agent, 63 percent selected a buyer’s representative. Eighty-seven percent consider their home a good investment, and more than half see it as a better investment than stocks. Twelve percent of buyers own two homes, while another three percent own three or more homes.

The typical repeat buyer was 48 years old, earned $88,100, purchased a home costing $224,500 and plans to stay in that home for 12 years.

The median downpayment of all home buyers was 8 percent, and the number purchasing with no money down fell from 23 percent in 2008 to 15 percent in the current survey; 8 percent of buyers paid all cash for their home.

The median age of home sellers was 46 and their income was $91,100. Typical sellers had been in their home for seven years, up from six years in the 2008 survey, moved a median distance of 19 miles, and their home was on the market for 10 weeks. Nearly half traded up in size, 30 percent bought a comparable home and 22 percent traded down.

Eighty-five percent of sellers used a real estate professional, and 64 percent of sellers chose their agent based on a referral or had used the same agent in the past. Eighty-one percent of sellers are likely to use the same agent again or recommend to others.

Forty-two percent of sellers offered incentives to attract buyers, such as home warranties or assistance with closing costs. The typical home sold for 95 percent of the listing price, with a median increase over the seller’s original purchase price of $36,000. “Even with price declines in recent years, the typical home seller saw their equity increase 27 percent,” McMillan said.

Of sellers working with real estate agents, the study found that 80 percent used full-service brokerage, in which agents provide a range of services that include managing most of the process of selling a home from listing to closing. Nine percent of sellers chose limited services, which may include discount brokerage, and 11 percent used minimal service, such as simply listing a property on a multiple listing service.

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