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Why home sellers sold in 2011, what they moved to and why – report

A row of real estate sale signs in Columbia Heights, D.C., photo by Mr. T in DC.

A row of real estate sale signs in Columbia Heights, D.C., photo by Mr. T in DC.

Study results show a shifting seller demographic

The 2011 National Association of Realtors® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers recently surveyed 5,708 home buyers and sellers and reports that buyers are now more mature, higher income, often married couples as lending tightened this year in the down economy, which means those that were selling their homes also shifted this year.

Home sellers in 2011 are also older, richer and almost exclusively white, according to the trade association report.

Home sellers’ situations

Most repeat buyers (68 percent) report that their home selling situation is that they had already sold their previous home with 13 percent saying they don’t intend on selling their previous home, rather keeping it, and 7 percent say they have a home that has not sold and is currently vacant, with the remaining 7 percent saying they have a home that has not sold and are renting it to others.

Two in three recent home sellers are selling a home for the first time, a large portion of the home seller demographic in America.

Sellers with unsold homes are more concentrated in the South and the volume of unsold homes in the South that are being rented out are larger than the volume of vacant and sold homes. In the Northeast, more homes are sold than are vacant or rented to others and in rural areas in all regions, there are more vacant homes than homes that are rented or homes sold.

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Homes sold vs. homes purchased

Fully 66 percent of home sellers remain in the same state when they purchase their next home while 21 percent move to a different region with 14 percent moving to a different state within the same region.

The most frequent type of home sold in 2011 was a detached single-family home (79 percent) and the second most frequent type is townhomes or rowhouses.

The typical home sold in 2011 was a three bedroom, two bathroom house. Nearly half of all recent sellers purchased a home larger than the home they just sold, 31 percent bought a home roughly the same size and 23 percent downsized. Buying a larger home is most common in buyers under age 54 while buyers 55 to 64 bought homes the same size and those age 65 and older most frequently downsized.

Roughly half of all sellers purchased a home more expensive than what they just sold, one in four bought a home in the same price range and the remaining one in four bought a less expensive home. Buyers under 54 typically bought a more expensive home while buyers over 65 bought a less expensive home.

Home sellers typically bought a newer home than what they recently sold (60 percent) while 20 percent bought an older home and the remaining 20 percent purchased a home around the same age.

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Why did sellers sell in 2011?

The top reason cited for selling a home were job relocation, and the home being too small, followed closely by wanting to be closer to friends and family, a neighborhood that has become less desirable, and change in family situation (divorce, etc.).

The motivation to sell varies widely by age with buyers under 44 citing the need for a larger home while sellers over 55 are most likely to move to be closer to friends and family. Sellers aged 45 to 54 are most likely to move for a job relocation or because the neighborhood has become less desirable.

The takeaway

Every two in three homes sold in 2011 were first time sellers and many sellers are renting out their homes as they didn’t sell, especially in the South. Most people don’t move far away and the majority of all sales in 2011 were detached single-family three bedroom, two bathroom homes. The reasons for selling varied wildly depending on age with job, friends and family and a neighborhood becoming less desirable as the top reasons across the board.

Brokerages that are aware of the national shifts in who is selling will likely change the direction of their marketing and communications plans for 2012.

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