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May 2016

Seattle area first-time homebuyers say cost, neighborhood are priorities when shopping

More Seattle metro area first-time buyers are motivated by emotional factors (78 percent) than financial factors (69 percent) when making the decision to buy a home, according to the inaugural Bank of America Homebuyer Insights Report, released last month.

"One thing rings clear - the dream of homeownership is alive and well," wrote D. Steve Boland, consumer lending executive with the bank, in a report of the findings.

The "Insights Report" explored the attitudes, behaviors and preferences of the modern homebuyer in Seattle and nine other metro markets.

Research analysts concluded today's buyers value the emotional benefits of homeownership as much as the financial ones. These buyers also believe saving for a home is as important as saving for retirement.

First-time buyers know sacrifices come with their dream: 95 percent said they are willing to make sacrifices to become a homeownership.

Infographic - First-time homebuyers willing to make sacrifices

When asked why they want to purchase a home, 58 percent of Seattle respondents said they want a place to call their own and nearly as many, 54 percent, indicated owning a home was something they've always wanted to do. About one-third (31 percent) said they wanted a place to put down roots. Other reasons cited included "a place to make memories," and "the money spent on rent would be better spent toward a mortgage."

When considering a prospective home, cost (83 percent) and neighborhood (65 percent) are extremely important to Seattle area buyers, outweighing other considerations. Fifty-three percent rate the floor plan and layout as very important. Cost also ranked highest among key factors for buyers in other markets.

A single-family home in the suburbs remains the most common goal across the 10 metros. Seventy-eight percent of homebuyers in Seattle are interested in buying a single-family home, but local respondents had the least interest in buying a suburban home when compared with buyers elsewhere. 

Aspiring Seattle area homeowners differed from their counterparts elsewhere in several respects:

  • More Seattle homebuyers who set aside savings for their home did so because they believe it will take a long time to save enough for a down payment (66 percent), compared to homebuyers nationally (50 percent) and any other market surveyed.
  • Seventy-one percent of local first-time buyers have not purchased a home before now because they did not think they could afford a home or the type of home they would like to buy. That's higher than the national average of 56 percent.
  • Seventy-seven percent of experienced Seattle homebuyers sacrificed something the last time they purchased a home.

A large majority of first-time buyers would prefer to bypass the starter home. About three-fourths of respondents here and nationally are looking for a home they can grow into, rather than one that fits their needs today.

Two-thirds (66 percent) of first-time millennial buyers still expect some type of help from their parents, according to the bank's research. Topping the wish list is help moving in (36 percent), followed by deciding which home to buy, money for a down payment, furnishing the home, and money for monthly mortgage payments.

When thinking back to the first time they purchased a home, experienced buyers said they wish they would have known about the pride (52 percent), sense of accomplishment (46 percent) and joy (46 percent) of owning a home. The top piece of advice they'd give their younger selves about purchasing a home is to start saving early (52 percent).

The research also uncovered some interesting differences across the country when comparing homebuying behaviors and preferences.

Infographic - Homebuying behaviors and preferences differ acoss the U.S.

Bank of America commissioned an independent research company to conduct the survey. It consisted of an online survey of 1,001 nationally representative consumers, plus more detailed surveys and interviews of millennials in ten markets.

The complete report is available online (PDF).