First-Timers Surge

BY JESSE DARLAND ON APRIL 20TH, 2017

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The real estate market will see a huge increase in first-time homebuyers in 2017, according to Realtor.com’s Active Home Shopper Report.

Based on a survey of users of the website in September 2016, the new report took a look at the responses of shoppers that plan to purchase a home in spring or summer 2017. The survey found a higher demand for suburban homes and growing concern among homebuyers regarding affordability and mortgage qualification.

More than half (52 percent) of prospective homebuyers are expected to be first-time shoppers in 2017, according to the survey. For comparison, in 2016 only 33 percent were first-time homebuyers. Millennials are the largest growing age group, with 33 percent of potential buyers under age 35. For many millennials, life changes such as getting married, moving in with a partner or planning to increase family size are deciding factors.

“This represents an ‘oh shift’ moment in housing,” said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Realtor.com. “With so many first time buyers in the market, competition will be even fiercer next year for affordable starter homes in the suburbs. Those looking to buy may want to consider a winter home purchase in order to avoid bidding wars and higher prices spurred by a potential increase in millennial buyers.”

The younger demographic shift in the age of homebuyers brings with it a change in the largest barrier to home ownership. The report expects that affordability will replace low inventory as the biggest concern holding back the real estate market. While 2016’s survey showed that 40 percent of shoppers believed low housing inventory was their biggest barrier, this new survey shows, instead, that 37 percent reported gathering funds for a down payment is their biggest obstacle. In addition, 30 percent stated their problem was finding homes within their budget.

As first-timers are looking to address the needs of their families, it’s no wonder safety, more living space and large yards were top features desired in a new home. Privacy is another desire. About 2 in 5 millennial shoppers (39 percent) showed a strong preference for single-family homes, while 34 percent listed townhomes as their top choice. Half of all respondents stated that they prefer suburban homes.

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