Dual income households are comprising a greater portion of the housing market and helping sales recover, according to the 2012 National Association of Realtors (NAR) Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers continues a long-running series of large national NAR surveys evaluating the demographics, preferences, motivations, plans and experiences of recent home buyers and sellers. The responses are heavily representative of owner-occupants and do not include most investors.
Sixty-five percent of all buyers are married couples, 16 percent are single women, nine percent single men, eight percent unmarried couples and two percent other; percentages of single buyers were slightly higher in 2011. However, just two years ago, 58 percent of buyers were married, 20 percent were single women, 12 percent single men and seven percent unmarried couples; the overall market share of single buyers declined a total of seven percentage points over the past two years. Before 2010, the market shares moved within a very narrow range, generally a percentage point or two.
“We’ve known for some time that stringent mortgage credit standards have been holding back home sales, but these findings show single buyers have been hurt the most over the past two years," said Paul Bishop, NAR vice president of research. "Total home sales would be 10 to 15 percent higher without these unnecessary headwinds,” he said.
First-time homebuyers edged up to a 39 percent market share in the past year from 37 percent in the 2011 study. Long-term survey averages show that four out of 10 buyers are typically first-time buyers, who are critical to a housing recovery because they help existing home owners to sell and make a trade.
The study shows the median age of first-time buyers was 31 and the median income was $61,800. The typical first-time buyer purchased a 1,600 square-foot home costing $154,100, while the typical repeat buyer was 51 years old and earned $93,100. Repeat buyers purchased a median 2,100-square foot home costing $220,000.
The median downpayment for all home buyers was nine percent, ranging from four percent for first-time buyers to 13 percent for repeat buyers.
“First-time buyers historically make small downpayments, but repeat buyers like to put down 20 percent if they can to avoid paying mortgage insurance,” Bishop said. “The general loss in home value since the peak of the housing boom means many repeat buyers in recent years had to make smaller downpayments. Fortunately, prices have turned up this year and are showing sustained increases, so we’re on the road to a recovery in home equity.”
First-time buyers who financed their purchase used a variety of resources for the downpayment: 76 percent tapped into savings; 24 percent received a gift from a friend or relative, typically from their parents; and six percent received a loan from a relative or friend. Eleven percent tapped into a 401(k) fund, and six percent sold stocks or bonds. Ninety-three percent of entry-level buyers chose a fixed-rate mortgage.
Forty-six percent of first-time homebuyers financed with a low-downpayment FHA mortgage, and 10 percent used the VA loan program with no downpayment requirements. Forty-two percent cut spending on luxury items to buy their first home, 35 percent cut spending on entertainment and 27 percent cut spending on clothes.
Seventy-eight percent of recent homebuyers said their home is a good investment, and 46 percent believe it’s better than stocks; 92 percent were satisfied with the buying process.
The typical buyer began their home search online and then contacted a real estate agent. Buyers who used an agent searched a median of 12 weeks and visited 10 homes, down from 12 homes in 2011.
"The decline in the number of homes visited reflects a tighter inventory environment that became more pronounced during the second half of the survey period,” said Bishop. “It makes sense that buyers are seeing fewer homes in the current market.”
Buyers use a wide variety of resources in searching for a home. Top results show 90 percent use the Internet, 87 percent use real estate agents, 53 percent yard signs, 45 percent attend open houses and 27 percent review print or newspaper ads.
When buyers were asked where they first learned about the home they purchased, 42 percent said the Internet; 34 percent from a real estate agent; 10 percent a yard sign or open house; six percent from a friend, neighbor or relative; five percent home builders; two percent directly from the seller; one percent a print or newspaper ad; and less than one percent from other sources.
Ninety-one percent of home buyers who used the Internet to search for a home purchased through a real estate agent, as did 71 percent of non-Internet users, who 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 Web sites were the most popular Internet resource, used by 54 percent of buyers; followed by Realtor.com, 51 percent; real estate agent Web sites, 47 percent; real estate company sites, 39 percent; other Web sites with real estate listings, 27 percent; search engines, 19 percent; mobile or tablet apps, and for-sale-by-owner sites, 13 percent each; mobile or tablet websites, 12 percent; and mobile or tablet search engine, 11 percent; other categories were notably smaller.
While sellers had been in their previous home for a median of nine years, first-time buyers plan to stay for 10 years and repeat buyers plan to hold their property for 15 years.
The biggest factors influencing neighborhood choice were quality of the neighborhood, cited by 61 percent of buyers; convenience to jobs, 43 percent; overall affordability of homes, 39 percent; and convenience to family and friends, 35 percent. Other factors with relatively high responses include neighborhood design and convenience to shopping, 26 percent each; quality of the school district, 25 percent; convenience to schools, 22 percent; and convenience to entertainment or leisure activities, 19 percent.
Commuting costs continue to factor strongly in decisions regarding location, with 75 percent of buyers saying transportation costs were important.
Seventy-nine percent of respondents purchased a detached single-family home, eight percent a condo, six percent a townhouse or rowhouse, and seven percent some other kind of housing. The typical home had three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Fifty-one percent of homes purchased by all buyers were in a suburb or subdivision, 18 percent in a small town, 17 percent were in an urban area, 12 percent in a rural area and three percent in a resort or recreation area. The median distance from the previous residence was 11 miles.
Eighty-nine percent of respondents used real estate agents and brokers to purchase a home, six percent purchased directly from a builder and five percent directly from the previous owner; 59 percent of buyers working with real estate professionals had a buyer representative arrangement.
The biggest reason people buy a home is the simple desire to own a home of their own, cited by 30 percent of respondents, including 60 percent of first-time buyers. The next biggest reasons for buying were desire for a larger home, cited by 11 percent of respondents; a job-related move, nine percent; a change in family situation, eight percent; and the affordability of homes, seven percent.
Fifteen percent of respondents currently own two homes, and an additional five percent own three or more properties.
The typical home seller was 53-years-old and their income was $95,400. Sellers moved a median distance of 19 miles and their home was on the market for 11 weeks. Forty-six percent moved to a larger home, 29 percent bought a comparably sized home and 25 percent downsized.
Twelve percent of sellers do not plan to sell their previous home, and six percent said their home has not yet sold but they’re currently renting to others. The typical seller, who purchased a home nine years earlier, realized a median equity gain of $20,000, a 12 percent increase over the original purchase price, while sellers who were in their homes for 11 to 15 years saw a median gain of $54,000, or 31 percent.
Sellers typically found a real estate agent through a referral by a friend, neighbor or relative, or used the agent in a previous transaction; 84 percent are likely to use the agent again or recommend to others.
Like sellers, buyers most commonly choose an agent based on a referral, with trustworthiness and reputation being the most important factors; two out of thee buyers interviewed only one agent. Eighty-nine percent of buyers are likely to use the same agent again or recommend to others.
Of sellers working with real estate agents, the study found that 80 percent used full-service brokerage, in which agents provide a broad range of services and manage most of the aspects of selling a home. Eight percent of sellers chose limited services, which may include discount brokerage, and 12 percent used minimal service, such as simply listing a property on a multiple listing service.
For-sale-by-owner (FSBO) transactions accounted for 9 percent of sales, matching the record-low set in 2010 and down from 10 percent in last year’s study, well below the record high of 20 percent set in 1987. The share of homes sold without professional representation has trended lower since last reaching a cyclical peak, which was 18 percent in 1997.
Many FSBO properties are not sold on the open market. Factoring out private sales between parties who knew each other in advance, the actual number of homes sold on the open market without professional assistance was six percent.
“An interesting finding is that when asked about the reason for selling, 20 percent of FSBOs said they had been contacted directly by a buyer, up from 15 percent in the 2010 study,” Bishop said. “This is another indication of the tight inventory situation that is developing in various parts of the country, notably in the West.”
The median transaction price for sellers who used an agent was $215,000, well above the $174,900 median for a home sold directly by an owner, but there were differences in the findings. The median income of unassisted sellers was $80,400, in contrast with $97,600 for agent-assisted sellers. Unassisted sellers were much more likely to be selling a smaller home, and they were more likely to be in an urban or central city area, all suggesting a lower home value. The most difficult tasks reported by unrepresented sellers are understanding and completing paperwork, getting the right price, and preparing or fixing up the home for sale.
NAR mailed an eight-page questionnaire in July 2012 to a national sample of 93,502 home buyers and sellers who purchased their homes between July 2011 and June 2012, according to county records and using the Tailored Survey Design Method. It generated 8,501 usable responses; the adjusted response rate was 9.1 percent. All information is characteristic of the 12-month period ending in June 2012 with the exception of income data, which are for 2011. Because of rounding and omissions for space, percentage distributions for some findings may not add up to 100 percent.