Economists' Outlook

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Sales to First-Time Buyers: 32 Percent of Sales in August 2015

First-time home buyers accounted for 32 percent of existing-home sales in August 2015 (28 percent in July 2015; 29 percent in August 2014): August 2015 REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey.12

Sustained net job creation, a low interest rate environment with 30-year fixed rates at below four percent for most of 2015, and better pricing of FHA-insured mortgages appear to be helping first-time homebuyers. The prospect of an interest rate increase by the Federal Reserve Board may also have spurred first-time home buying activity.[1] REALTOR® respondents reported that tight inventory, increasingly unaffordable prices, and weak credit profiles that fail to meet tighter underwriting standards are conditions that continue to work against first-time home buyers.

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Buyers age 34 and under accounted for 29 percent of sales reported by the respondents. Nearly half of buyers were in the age group 35 to 55 years.
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Renters accounted for 38 percent of sales, essentially unchanged compared to past months. Although rents are rising faster than mortgage payments, the rate of renting has remained elevated, likely due to a mix of factors related to lifestyle choice, household formation, financial constraints for younger households, and tighter underwriting standards.

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12 First-time buyers accounted for about 33 percent of all home buyers based on data from NAR’s 2014 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers (HBS). The HBS is a survey of primary residence home buyers and does not capture investor purchases but does cover both existing and new home sales. The RCI Survey is a survey of REALTORS® about their transactions and captures purchases for investment purposes and second homes for existing homes.

12 First-time buyers accounted for about 33 percent of all home buyers based on data from NAR’s 2014 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers (HBS). The HBS is a survey of primary residence home buyers and does not capture investor purchases but does cover both existing and new home sales. The RCI Survey is a survey of REALTORS® about their transactions and captures purchases for investment purposes and second homes for existing homes.

[1] The Federal Open Market Committee, in its September 17 statement, decided to maintain at 0 to ¼ percent target range for the federal funds rate, a benchmark rate that influences all rates, including mortgage rates.

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