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Real Estate

More first-time homebuyers enlisting help from family, friends

But numbers remain at historic lows

Home prices are rising with no signs of slowing, and affordability is getting worse each month, causing potential homebuyers to turn to family or even friends to come up with a down payment.

The 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers report from the National Association of Realtors revealed that more than 30% of first-time homebuyers used down payment help from family and friends.

This is despite seeing lower down payments. In 2019, the median down payment was 12% for all buyers, 6% for first-time buyers and 16% for repeat buyers. Lower down payments among homebuyers are another result of rising home prices as buyers find it difficult to save for a down payment. In fact, 17% of all buyers and 25% of first-time buyers used an FHA loan to purchase, likely taking advantage of low down payment programs.

But this hasn’t seemed to help increase the number of first-time homebuyers, with remained at 33% in 2019, significantly below the historical norm of 40%.

“Prerecession, the number of first-time buyers was higher, in part, because buyers had more options,” NAR President John Smaby said. “However, over the past few years, we have unfortunately experienced a scarcity in housing inventory, especially at the middle- and lower-end of the market.”

And this low level of starter home inventory continues to be the single greatest factor keeping first-time homebuyers off the market. NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun explained that buyers report the most difficult step in the home buying process is just finding the right home to purchase, and what buyers want most from their real estate professional is to help them find the right home to purchase.

“Low inventory conditions hurt would-be first-time buyers most,” Yun said. “Their homeownership dream and the opportunity to build wealth gets delayed until more inventory choices reach the market.”

Of course, this low level of inventory has helped one group – home sellers. This year, home sellers received a median of 99% of their asking price and typically sold their home within just three weeks.

The increase in home prices lowered the number of home sellers who reported delaying selling because their home was worth less than their mortgage. This particular share of sellers declined from 9% in the 2018 report to 7% in 2019. However, 20% of sellers who bought their home 11 to 15 years ago continue to report stalling their home sale.

The age of repeat buyers continues to steadily increase over the years, moving from the mid-30s in the 1980s to the mid-50s today. In fact, there is no area that has seen a more rapid and consistent increase than the median age of repeat buyers, which hit a record high of 55 years old in both 2018 and 2019.

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3d rendering of a row of luxury townhouses along a street

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