While the nation’s housing supply tightens and home prices continue to rise, first time home buyers are also struggling to save enough for a down payment while burdened with student loan debt.
As a result, only 34 percent of 2017 home buyers were first time homeowners, a minor decrease from 35 percent in 2016, according to the National Association of Realtors 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. This figure continues to fall away from the long-term historical market average of 39 percent, per the NAR.
The typical first time home buyer? A 32-year-old with an average household income of $75,000 who carries some lingering student loan debt.
While millennials are in their prime home buying years, the NAR found debt and saving for a down payment are the most significant home buying hurdles. A quarter (25 percent) of new first time buyers said saving for a down payment was the most difficult task they faced during the process and more than half (55 percent) said student loan debt delayed their home purchase.
Among the surveyed home buying newbies, 41 percent indicated they have student loan debt, which is up from the 40 percent recorded in 2016. And, the average debt balance has increased even more in the past year, reaching an average of $29,000 compared to $26,000 in 2016. More than half of debt-carrying buyers owe at least $25,000, too.
The typical first time home? A single-family home in a suburban area with a median purchase price of $190,000. And, as saving for a down payment is difficult for many young buyers, the average first time home buyer down payment averaged 5 percent in 2017, the lowest percentage recorded by the NAR since 2013. The average down payment figure also indicates such buyers finance nearly 10 percent more (95 percent) of their home purchases than repeat buyers (86 percent).
In addition to personal finance burdens, first time buyers have struggled to find affordable options as the housing inventory in many parts of the U.S. tightens and prices increase for what is available. When buyers are on a budget and balancing debt, this can dampen the dreams of homeownership and prolong the time spent searching for their first home. Overall, the 2017 NAR survey found the average home buying search lasts 10 weeks.
Regardless of reality, many currently believe that it’s just too expensive to buy.
“With the lower end of the market seeing the worst of the supply crunch, house hunters faced mounting odds in finding their first home,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “Multiple offers were a common occurrence, investors paying in cash had the upper hand, and prices kept climbing, which yanked homeownership out of reach for countless would-be buyers.”
The NAR annual Profile of Buyers and Sellers survey is survey data-based snapshot of home buyers who have purchased a home in the past 12 months, which, for the latest report, meant between July 2016 and June 2017.
While the new first time home buyer stats may not be the most promising, these findings can help real estate professionals better understand the current housing market and better assist home buyers – especially younger buyers who may benefit from more guidance.