According to realtor.com®'s January survey of active home buyers, 44 percent of buyers planning to buy in spring 2017 are first-time home buyers. This has dropped significantly since the survey was conducted in October, when 55 percent of buyers of planning a spring purchase indicated they were looking for their first home.
The average 30-year conforming rate rose to more than 4.2 percent by the end of December 2016 from 3.4 percent at the end of September 2016. With average rates today about half a percentage point higher than they were in 2016, a median-priced home financed with 20 percent down would cost an additional $720 per year in added interest. That equals more than 1 percent of the median household's income.
Survey data collected by realtor.com® found that first-time buyers were nearly five times more likely than repeat buyers to say they faced challenges qualifying for a mortgage, with affordability ranking highly among first-time buyer concerns. First-time buyers comprised 32 percent of all buyers in November, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
"The rise in rates is associated with an anticipation of stronger economic and wage growth, both of which favor buyers," added Smoke. "At the same time, higher rates make qualifying for a mortgage and finding affordable inventory more challenging. The decline in the share of first-time buyers since October suggests that the move up in rates is discouraging new home buyers already."
To date, rising interest rates appear to be having the opposite impact on repeat home buyers. Even with the current increases, interest rates remain historically low, and the movement in rates hasn't yet tipped overall buyer demand down. It has actually sparked demand from experienced buyers trying to close before rates increase further, as evidenced by increased realtor.com® listings views and decreased inventory. In the short term, the rate movement seems to have encouraged rather than dampened overall demand.
In addition to likely additional mortgage rate increases, prospective buyers should be aware of the following aspects of the housing market realtor.com® expects to see at play over the coming year.
Other Significant Challenges for Home Buyers in 2017
- There Aren't Enough Homes for Sale.
Even after 51 straight months of a below-normal supply of homes for sale, 2017 is expected to be even more challenging. Active inventory in December on realtor.com® was down 11 percent compared to December 2015. As a result, the year has started with the lowest inventory of homes for sale at least since the recession, and possibly in decades. Inventory was a challenge all year but a stronger offseason in the fall depleted the available homes for sale even more than is typical.
- Prices Remain at Record Highs.
Asking prices usually decrease in the fall, but this year the median list price in December, was the same as in July at $250,000. That represents a record price for December and a year over year gain of 9 percent, the highest monthly year-over-year gain in 2016.
- Rising Rates Have Made Demand Even More Intense.
With fewer homes on the market, average listing views were up 40 to 80 percent in the last three weeks of December, compared to the same time in 2015. Multiple potential buyers seem to be interested in virtually every home on the market even though we are in the slowest time of the year for sales.
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Lexie Puckett Holbert – firstname.lastname@example.org
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