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March 2019

Characteristics of recent home buyers unveiled in NAHB study

March 6, 2019

First-time buyers accounted for 37 percent of all households that purchased homes in the past two years, according to findings in the 2017 American Housing Survey.  That was a slight drop from 39 percent from the prior period.

The National Association of Home Builders analyzes data from the biennial survey to provide insight into the types of households driving recent housing activity. The latest report was based on data from 8.8 million homes purchased in the two years preceding the 2017 AHS.

In addition to demographic characteristics of buyers, NAHB examines methods of financing, median prices, square footage, and reasons for moving.

Key findings from the 2017 AHS show:

  • The typical home buyer was 40 years old, unchanged from 2015.
  • Racial or ethnic minorities made up 27 percent of recent buyers, a slight gain from 2015 (26 percent).
  • Homes that were purchased had a median of 1,890 square feet, about the same as 2015 (1,900 sq. ft.)
  • The median price of the recent purchases rose 10 percent in the two years between 2015 and 2017  (rising from $208,573 to $228,389).
  • Eleven percent of the recent buyers purchased their home without a down payment, unchanged from 2015.
  • Savings or cash on hand were used by 52 percent of recent purchasers, a slight drop from 54 percent in 2015. About a quarter of the buyers (26 percent) used funds from the sale of a previous home.
  • The top reasons for moving were to "move to a better home" (55 percent), "move for a better neighborhood" (46 percent), and "move to form a household" (39 percent).  Other reasons cited included "to move for a job" (14 percent) and "to reduce their commute" (12 percent).

The 8.8 million recent home buyers marked a continuing upward trend since 2011 when the recession-related figure was 6.8 million. In 2013 it rebounded to 7.3 million and by 2015 it rose to 7.9 million.

Additional data from NAHB's report on Characteristics of Recent Home Buyers are online as part of its Special Studies series.