First-Time Home Buyers Battle Rising Prices, Seek Better Homes

As the housing industry celebrates New Homes Month in April, recent data from the American Housing Survey (AHS) confirms nearly two-thirds of first-time home buyers say a better home is the top reason for moving, followed by household formation, 61 percent and a better neighborhood, 49 percent.

First-time home buyers make up 37 percent of all households who purchased homes in the two years preceding the release of the 2017 AHS, down from 39 percent in the 2015 AHS. The median price of homes purchased by recent home buyers, including first-time buyers and previous home owners, known as trade-up buyers, increased by 10 percent from the 2015 AHS.

“First-time home buyers are eager to move to better homes and neighborhoods, yet home prices remain a challenge,” said National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Chairman Greg Ugalde, a builder and developer from Torrington, Conn. “Public policies and incentives that support home affordability can help buyers find a home that fits their lifestyle and family.”

Home builders recognize the complexity of factors that contribute to higher home prices and the cost of housing. In today’s market, issues such as the supply of land; federal, state and local regulatory requirements; and a shortage of skilled labor makes it difficult to increase the supply of affordable housing.

The demographics of first-time and trade-up home buyers remained largely unchanged from the 2015 AHS: the typical home buyer was 40 years old; first-time buyers had a median age of 32, compared to a median age of 47 for trade-up buyers. Twenty-seven percent of recent home buyers were racial or ethnic minorities, about the same as in the 2015 AHS.

In a positive sign for the spring home buying season, the Federal Reserve last week signaled that it envisions no rate increases in 2019 and only a single rate hike in 2020. While public policies to improve housing affordability are needed, the recent Fed announcement will help housing markets this year.

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