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Hidden Demographics of First-Time Home Buyers

For the third year in a row, the percent of first-time home buyers in the pool of all home buyers has decreased to a historical low number, according to The National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers Report released in November 2015. In 2012, the percent of first-time home buyers was 39 percent of all buyers and in 2015 it was down again to just 32 percent. In the western region of the United States, it was as low as 26 percent and highest in the Northeast region at 46 percent.

Diving into the demographics of first-time home buyers, we see that over time the median age has held steady at 31 years for five years in a row since 2011. Millennials aged 25-34 years have comprised the largest share of first-time home buyers at roughly 50-60 percent in the last decade. In 2015, Millennials accounted for 58 percent of first-time home buyers compared to 50 percent ten years earlier in 2005. By way of comparison, repeat buyers were almost spread evenly around 20 percent in most age groups except Millennials and those over 75 years old last year (see table below for comparison).

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What’s more interesting is the fact that the percent of first-time home buyers varies largely across the country. In the Mountain region of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico, first-time home buyers were only 21 percent of the total number of buyers in 2015, the lowest of any other region. They were also a low 25 percent in the East South Central. First-time home buyers made up 43 percent in the Middle Atlantic in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey; and 42 percent in New England.

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Buyer demographics also saw huge differences between household compositions for first-time buyers. Unmarried couples made up the largest first-time home buyers at 57 percent compared to married couples who accounted for only 27 percent. Both single males and single females accounted for 39 percent of first-time home buyers as well, well above the 31 percent of all buyers.

*In NAR’s annual survey, the questionnaire asks respondents “Was this your first home purchase?” First-time home buyers are defined solely by answering yes to this question.

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