Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

September 2021 REALTORS® Confidence Index Report: Fall Housing Market Starts on a Calmer Note

The fall market is starting on a calmer note compared to the frenzied summer market, according to REALTORS® who participated in the September REALTORS® Confidence Index (RCI) survey. The market is cooling due to both market fundamentals as well as the seasonal decline in market activity that normally comes with fall.

The REALTORS® Buyer Traffic Index1 decreased further to 57 in September (61 in the prior month, 75 one year ago). On average, respondents reported taking four clients on a home tour in September (four clients in the prior month; five clients 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, respondents reported two listings during the month compared to the average of four clients taken on a home tour.

The share of first-time buyers decreased to 28% (29% in the prior month; 31% one year ago). The last time the share went down this low was in January 2015. First-time buyers appear to be struggling to compete in a market with low inventory conditions, fewer days on market, and preference for cash buyers by sellers. The share of cash sales rose to 23% (22% in the prior month, 18% one year ago).

Line graph: Share of First-Time Buyers to Existing-Home Sales, October 2008 to April 2021

Properties typically stayed on the market for 17 days (17 days in the prior month; 21 days one year ago), while 86% of the properties that closed in September were sold in less than one month (87% in the prior month; 71% one year ago). On average, sellers received slightly more than four offers on their home sale. Respondents reported that, on average, their buyer had made two prior unsuccessful offers on a home. However, buyers' desire to offer more than the list price appears to be waning. Respondents reported that 44% of offers were above the list price, a lower fraction compared to 55% in June this year.

Amid a competitive market, 23% of buyers waived their appraisal contingency clause (buyers who waived their appraisal are likely all-cash buyers). Among contracts in the past three months, 25% had a delayed settlement. Of contracts that had a delayed settlement, 25% of contracts had appraisal issues (23% in the prior month; 21% one year ago).

Line graph: Percent of Contracts with Delayed Settlement Due to Appraisal Issues, April 2015 to July 2021

The share of non-primary residence buyers (vacation, investors) decreased to 13% (15% in the prior month; 12% one year ago), with the decline due to the lower fraction of buyers who purchased property for investment rentals (7%), while vacation home buyers held steady at 6% of the market.

According to respondents, 85% of buyers purchased a property in a suburban, small town, rural, or resort area (88% in the prior month and 83% one year ago). However, it appears that the desire of city buyers to purchase a property in the suburbs has waned compared to last year, with only 31% of respondents reporting this condition compared to 39% one year ago.

About the REALTORS® Confidence Index (RCI) 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 September 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 4,199 respondents in the previous three surveys who provided their email addresses. There were 2,933 respondents to the online survey which ran from October 1-7, 2021, of which 1,577 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 survey 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

1 An index above 50 means more respondents reported "stronger" than "weaker" conditions.