Homebuyers today have affirmed a long-term view of homeownership, and the typical seller is experiencing positive returns and the vast majority of homeowners see their property as a good investment, according to the latest consumer survey of home buyers and sellers as conducted by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The 2010 National Association of Realtors Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers is the latest in a series of large national NAR surveys evaluating demographics, preferences, marketing and experiences of recent homebuyers and sellers. Although typical sellers had been in their previous home for eight years, up from seven years in the 2009 study, first-time homebuyers plan to stay for 10 years and repeat buyers plan to hold their property for 15 years. NAR mailed an eight-page questionnaire in July 2010 to a national sample of 111,004 home buyers and sellers who purchased their homes between July 2009 and June 2010, according to county records. It generated 8,449 usable responses; the adjusted response rate was 7.9 percent. All information is characteristic of the 12-month period ending in June 2010 with the exception of income data, which are for 2009. Because of rounding and omissions for space, percentage distributions for some findings may not add up to 100 percent. “This underscores two simple facts, homeownership encourages stability, and the longer you own, the better your investment,” said NAR 2010 President Vicki Cox Golder, owner of Vicki L. Cox & Associates in Tucson, Ariz. Even with several years of price declines, the typical seller who purchased a home eight years ago experienced a median equity gain of $33,000, a 24 percent increase, while sellers who were in their homes for 11 to 15 years saw a median gain of 40 percent. “Sellers who purchased at the top of the market and had to sell in a short time frame were hurt by the price correction, but the vast majority who are able to stay for a normal period of home ownership generally built enough equity to make a trade-up purchase,” Golder said. “Despite swings in the housing market in recent years, the fact is most long-term owners see healthy gains in the value of their property.” House flipping is virtually non-existent in today’s market. “The primary exception is for experienced investors, many of whom pay cash and are making renovations or improvements after a careful study of properties, neighborhoods and market demand,” Golder said. “The house flipping and quick gains which occurred during the boom period were abnormal, driven by risky, easy-money financing that should never have been allowed in the market.” In the 2006 study, covering sellers during the close of the housing boom, six percent of sellers had owned their property for less than a year and a total of 30 percent had owned for three years or less. In the 2010 study, only three percent had owned their home for less than a year and a total of 11 percent had owned for three years or less. “Eighty-five percent of recent home buyers see their home as a good investment, and nearly half think that investment is better than stocks,” said Paul Bishop, NAR vice president of research. “Even with the turmoil created by the housing boom and bust, this indicates the long-term view of homeownership as a fundamental goal and value remains sound. In fact, the single biggest reason most people buy a home is the simple desire to own a home of their own, cited by 31 percent of respondents, including 53 percent of first-time buyers.” The next biggest reasons for buying, identified by all homebuyers, were desire for a larger home, nine percent; a change in family situation and the first-time homebuyer tax credit, cited by eight percent each; a job-related move, seven percent; and the affordability of homes, six percent. Twelve other categories were five percent or less. The number of first-time homebuyers rose to a record high 50 percent of all home sales from 47 percent in the 2009 study, building on success of the homebuyer tax credit which began in 2009. The previous cyclical high for first-time homebuyers was 44 percent in 1991; records date back to 1981. The profile shows the median age of first-time buyers was 30 and the median income was $59,900. The typical first-time buyer purchased a 1,540 square foot home costing $152,000, with 93 percent using the first-time buyer tax credit. First-time buyers who made a downpayment used a variety of sources: 74 percent used savings, 27 percent received a gift from a friend or relative, typically from their parents, and nine percent received a loan from a relative or friend. Eight percent tapped into a 401(k) fund, and six percent sold stocks or bonds. Ninety-five percent chose a fixed-rate mortgage. The shares of entry-level buyers receiving a gift or loan were modestly higher than 2009 when 22 percent received a gift and six percent a loan from a relative or friend. “It appears more parents were motivated to help their children to take advantage of the home buyer tax credit and very favorable affordability conditions,” Bishop said. Fifty-six percent of entry level buyers financed their purchase with an FHA loan, while another seven percent used the VA loan program. Forty-two percent said financing their first home was more difficult than expected and nine percent had been rejected by a lender. Fifty-eight percent of all buyers are married couples, 20 percent are single women, 12 percent single men, eight percent unmarried couples and one percent other. Bishop noted that women buyers have accounted for roughly one out of five transactions since the late 1990s, and single men have been at the one in 10 level since 1981. “A modest increase in the share of single men buyers may result from the home buyer tax credit, but this is the highest share for single men in the history of the study,” Bishop said. Buyers searched a median of 12 weeks and viewed 12 homes. Fourteen percent of buyers own two or more homes. The typical repeat buyer was 49 years old, earned $87,000, and purchased a 2,000 square foot home costing $215,000. The median downpayment of all homebuyers was eight percent, ranging from four percent for first-time homebuyers to 14 percent for repeat buyers. The median age of home sellers was 49 and their income was $90,000. Sellers moved a median distance of 18 miles and their home was on the market for eight weeks, down from 10 weeks in the 2009 survey. Half traded up in size, 28 percent bought a comparably sized home and 21 percent traded down. Sixty-four percent of sellers chose their agent based on a referral or had used the same agent in the past. Reputation was the most important factor in choosing an agent, cited by 35 percent of respondents, followed by trustworthiness at 23 percent. Eighty-four percent of sellers are likely to use the same agent again or recommend to others. Forty-four percent of sellers offered incentives to attract buyers, such as home warranties or assistance with closing costs. The typical home sold for 96 percent of the listing price, compared with 95 percent in the 2009 profile. Homebuyers thought the most important services agents offer are helping find the right house, and negotiating sales terms and price. Buyers also most commonly choose an agent based on a referral from a friend, neighbor or relative, with trustworthiness and reputation being the most important factors. Buyers use a wide variety of resources in searching for a home: 89 percent surf the Internet, 88 percent use real estate agents, 57 percent yard signs, 45 percent attend open houses and 36 percent look at print or newspaper ads. Although buyers also use other resources, they generally start the search process online and then contact an agent. When asked where they first learned about the home purchased, 38 percent of buyers said the Internet; 37 percent of buyers from a real estate agent; 11 percent a yard sign or open house; six percent from a friend, neighbor or relative; four percent home builders; two percent a print or newspaper ad; two percent directly from the seller; and less than one percent from a home book or magazine. Eighty-five percent of home buyers who used the Internet to search for a home purchased through a real estate agent, while 70 percent of non-Internet users were more likely to purchase directly from a builder or from an owner they already knew in a private transaction. Local metropolitan multiple listing service websites were the most popular Internet resource, used by 59 percent of buyers; followed by Realtor.com, 45 percent; real estate company sites, 43 percent; real estate agent websites, 42 percent; other websites with real estate listings, 41 percent; and for-sale-by-owner sites, 15 percent; other categories were smaller. Seventy-seven percent of all buyers purchased a detached single-family home, nine percent a condo, eight percent a townhouse or rowhouse, and six percent some other kind of housing. Commuting costs continue to factor strongly in buyer decisions, with three-quarters of buyers saying transportation costs were important. Environmentally friendly features remain a significant factor: 88 percent of buyers said that heating and cooling costs were important, 71 percent desired energy efficient appliances, and 69 percent wanted energy efficient lighting. Fifty-two percent of all homes purchased were in a suburb or subdivision, 18 percent were in an urban area, 17 percent in a small town, 11 percent in a rural area and one percent in a resort or recreation area. The median distance from the previous residence was 12 miles. Not surprisingly, for-sale-by-owner transactions reached a record low, accounting for nine percent of sales in the 2010 study, down from 11 percent in 2009. The share of homes sold without professional representation has trended down since reaching a cyclical peak of 18 percent in 1997. “In a market as challenging as today, it’s clear most home sellers need professional assistance,” Bishop said. As seen in previous studies, many For Sale by Owner (FSBO) properties were not placed on the open market. Factoring out private sales between parties who knew each other in advance such as family or acquaintances, the actual number of homes sold on the open market without professional assistance was a record low five percent—the rest were unrepresented sellers in private transactions. The market share of open-market FSBOs is half of what it was six years ago—10 percent were sold on the open market in 2004. The median home price for sellers who used an agent was $199,300 vs. $140,000 for a home sold directly by an owner, but there were important differences. The median income of unassisted sellers was $64,000, in contrast with $93,200 for agent-assisted sellers. Unassisted sellers were much more likely to be selling a somewhat smaller home, and they were more likely to be in a rural area. Combined, these factors suggest a lower value for FSBO properties. The most difficult tasks reported by unrepresented sellers are getting the right price, preparing and fixing the home for sale, understanding and performing paperwork, and selling within the planned length of time. For more information, visit www.realtor.org.
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