First-Time Buyers Making Mark on Housing, Study Reveals

WASHINGTON, DC — First-time home buyers reached the highest market share on record during the past year, according to a newly released nationwide consumer survey of home buyers and sellers.

The 2009 National Association of Realtors “Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers,” whose results were released last month, is the latest in a series of NAR surveys evaluating demographics, preferences, marketing and experiences of recent home buyers and sellers.

According to the survey’s results, the number of first-time home buyers rose to a record 47% of all home sales in 2009, up from 41% of transactions in the prior year’s study. The previous high, according to the NAR, was 44% in 1991.

“Tax incentives, record high affordability conditions and a pent-up demand brought a record share of first-time home buyers into the market,” observed Paul Bishop, v.p./research for the Washington, DC-based NAR. “These buyers are critical to housing and a general economic recovery because the market always heals from the bottom up – they absorb inventory, free existing owners to make a trade and stimulate related goods and services,” he said.

According to the NAR, the last cyclical peak of first-time home buyers was during the last noteworthy economic downturn, with first-time buyers “starting the chain reaction that led the nation out of recession,” the trade association said.

The profile shows the median age of first-time buyers was 30 and the median income was $61,600. The typical first-time buyer purchased a home costing $156,000, down from $165,000 in the 2008 study, and plans to stay in that home for 10 years. By comparison, the typical repeat buyer was 48 years old, earned $88,100, purchased a home costing $224,500, and plans to stay in that home for 12 years.

The median age of home sellers was 46, and their income was $91,100, the study revealed. Typical sellers had been in their home for seven years, up from six years in the 2008 survey, moved a median distance of 19 miles, and their home was on the market for 10 weeks. Nearly half traded up in size, 30% bought a comparable home, and 22% traded down, the NAR said.

Demand for Energy-Efficient Products Seen Rising in Tough Economy

Washington, DC — In light of the downturn in the housing market and overall economy, homeowners are still adding energy-efficient options and low-maintenance products, while showing a lessened interest in special features such as home theaters and guest wings.

That’s one of several findings in the latest in a quarterly series of “Home Design Trends Surveys” conducted by the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

“There has been a decrease in popularity for certain energy-efficient products or systems, but overall they continue to be in demand from homeowners,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker.

The Washington, DC-based AIA cited a rise in popularity for such products as tankless water heaters, water-saving plumbing products and “green” flooring, as well as systems and technologies aimed at energy management, water reclamation and air purification.

On the flip side, according to Baker, current economic conditions have also resulted in a significant drop in the investment by consumers in home offices and home theaters, guest or children’s wings, au pair/in-law suites, mudrooms and other specialty features.

AIA’s Home Design Trends Surveys are conducted quarterly among a panel of more than 500 architecture firms that concentrate their practice in the residential sector, according to the trade association.