Getting to know today’s buyer

November 13, 2015

The recently released National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Buyers and Sellers gives professionals more insight into today’s homebuyer…and helps us understand what we can be doing better as an industry.

This is the third year in a row that the share of first-time buyers declined. A healthy industry expects about 40 percent of buyers to be first-timers, yet we are now down to just 32 percent – the second lowest rate since the survey’s inception in 1981.

In fact, Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the housing recovery’s missing link continues to be the absence of first-time buyers. While there are many positive economic developments, including low mortgage rates and better job prospects for young buyers, there are also many hurdles, including saving for a down payment, student loan debt and increasing rent and home prices. Respondents said the saving for the down payment was the most difficult step in the home buying process.

But, maybe as an industry we are headed in the right direction. There is a wealth of information about the home buying process online, online homeownership courses make education easier and you can use your smart phone to set up any number of custom home searches and alerts. Buyers are doing more research first and still using professionals at a very high rate.

The survey found that 59 percent of recent buyers were very satisfied with their home buying process, up from 56 percent a year ago. And, among buyers who used the Internet during their home search, 84 percent found detailed information about properties for sale very useful. Buyers are engaged, researching and have a better experience. As more information is provided to would-be buyers, they are consuming it.

Yet, the full recovery of the market is yet to be seen.

We’ve already seen that buyers aren’t overwhelmed by more information—they are using it to help move their home search forward. What if buyers had even more access to information about homeownership programs that could help make their home purchase more affordable? What if more agents and lenders partnered with their state and local housing agencies to promote available programs? What if more local homebuyer seminars were offered? What if more buyers took online educational courses?

Let’s do more to move the needle on the real issue that everyone’s been talking about for years now: how to help move more first-time homebuyers into homeownership.

Download our recent report on down payment programs to understand why we think homebuyers’ use of down payment programs is poised to grow.

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