Survey shows spike in 1st-time homebuyers

AP News
Posted: Nov 14, 2009 6:38 PM

The housing market welcomed a bigger share of first-time buyers and single women this past year, while a majority of sellers resorted to dialing down prices to get their homes sold, a new homebuyer survey shows.

First-time buyers accounted for a record 47 percent of home sales between July 2008 and June this year, up from 41 percent in the prior-year period, according to the survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors.

The annual survey gleans details on everything from how buyers came up with down payments to how long it took sellers to unload their homes. The latest results were derived from more than 9,000 responses, the trade association said.

Home sales and prices have shown some signs of stabilizing this year, and the survey results affirm the market continued to favor buyers, particularly first-timers.

"Tax incentives, record high affordability conditions and a pent-up demand brought a record share of first-time home buyers into the market," said Paul Bishop, the trade association's vice president of research.

First-time homebuyers this year have been able to take advantage of a tax credit of up to $8,000 meant to entice new homebuyers to enter the market.

Congress extended the tax incentive through next June, as long as the buyer signs a binding contract by the end of April. The program also was expanded to include a $6,500 credit for existing homeowners who buy a new place after living in their current residence for at least five years.

First-time buyers had a median age of 30 and reported a median income of $61,600, the survey shows. The typical first-time buyer paid $156,000 for their home, about $9,000 less than in the Realtors' 2008 survey.

Repeat buyers were typically a few years older, 48, and earned a bit more than first-timers: $88,100. They also said they planned to stay in the home for 12 years.

Buyers generally took 12 weeks to search for a home, two weeks longer than last year. They also generally looked at 12 homes, up from 10.

Single women made up a slightly bigger share of homebuyers, accounting for 21 percent of buyers. That's a 1 percent increase from the prior-year survey. Single men accounted for 10 percent of buyers. But married couples continued to make up the majority of buyers at 60 percent, the survey showed.

Whites continued to dominate among homebuyers, representing 85 percent of buyers. That trend was slightly higher than in the 2008 survey.

The median down payment homebuyers made was 8 percent

More than 61 percent of buyers tapped their savings to come up with the down payment, while 22 percent received a gift from a friend or relative.

Sellers had to go the extra mile to sell their homes, with 52 percent offering incentives like paying for closing costs. They also lowered prices.

The typical home sold for 95 percent of the original listing price, the survey shows.

Still, many sellers came out ahead. The median amount over the price sellers originally paid for their home was $36,000.