Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

October 2021 Realtors® Confidence Index Report: First-time Buyers Struggle to Compete Against Cash, Investor, and Vacation Home Buyers

First-time buyers continue to struggle to compete with cash and non-primary residence buyers, according to the October 2021 REALTORS® Confidence Index report. First-time buyers accounted for 29% of the existing-home buyers, a lower fraction compared to one year ago (28% in the prior month, 32% one year ago). The share of cash sales rose to 24% (23% in the prior month, 19% one year ago). The share of non-primary residence buyers (for rental and vacation/second home use) rose to 17% (13% in the prior month, 14% one year ago). REALTORS® reported that 23% of buyers waived the appraisal contingency clause (buyers who waived appraisal are likely cash buyers); and 21% waived the inspection contingency clause.

Line graph: First-time Buyers as Percent of Existing-Home Buyers, October 2008 to August 2021

Among buyers who obtained a mortgage, the share who obtained FHA-insured mortgages decreased to 14% (15% in the prior month, 18% one year ago). Among first-time buyers, 72% put down less than 20% down payment, a lower share compared to one year ago (75% in the prior month, 76% one year ago).

Line graph: FHA Mortgages as Percent of Mortgage Financing, January 2018 to September 2021

REALTORS® reported subdued buyer activity compared prior month and one year ago

REALTORS® reported subdued market activity in October compared to one year ago and the prior month. The REALTORS® Buyer Traffic Index decreased further to 56 in October (57 in the prior month, 73 one year ago). Housing supply remains low, with the REALTORS® Seller Traffic Index registering at below 50 ("weak" seller traffic compared to one year ago).

On average, sellers received nearly four offers (3.7) on their home sale (3.7 in the prior month, 3.4 one year ago). Respondents reported that on average, their buyer had made two prior unsuccessful offers on a home. Respondents reported that 42% of offers were above the list price, a lower fraction compared to 55% in June this year.

Line graph: Offers Received Per Sold Property, October 2015 to October 2021

Respondents reported taking fewer clients. On average, respondents reported taking about four clients (4.1) on a home tour in October (4.3 clients in the prior month, 4.5 clients one year ago). However, the average number of clients taken on a home tour among buyer's agents during the month outpaced the average of two listings (1.6) during the month among seller's agents.

Properties typically stayed on the market for fewer days compared to one year ago, but slightly more days compared to the prior month at 18 days (17 days in the prior month, 21 days one year ago), with 82% of properties that closed in October selling in less than one month (86% in the prior month, 72% one year ago).

About the REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey

The RCI Survey gathers information from REALTORS® about local market conditions based on their client interactions and the characteristics of their most recent sales for the month.

The October 2021 survey was sent to 50,000 REALTORS® who were selected from NAR's more than 1.5 million members through simple random sampling and to 4,173 respondents in the previous three surveys who provided their email addresses.

There were 2,755 respondents to the online survey which ran from November 1–8, 2021, of which 1,490 had a client. Among those who had a client, the survey's maximum margin of error for proportion estimates is 2% at the 95% confidence level. The margins of error for subgroups are larger.

NAR weights the responses by a factor that aligns the sample distribution of responses to the distribution of NAR membership.

The REALTORS® Confidence Index is provided by NAR solely for use as a reference. Resale of any part of this data is prohibited without NAR's prior written consent. For questions on this report or to purchase the RCI series, please email: