In 2016, first-time home buyers made up 35 percent of all home buyers, an increase over last year’s near all-time low of 32 percent where it had remained for the previous three years, according to The National Association of REALTORS® 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers report released in October 2016. From 2011 to 2016, the share of first-time buyers was well below the historical norm of 40 percent with buyers facing tight inventory as well as higher home prices and rent costs. In the South, it was as low as 31 percent and the highest in the Northeast region at 44 percent.
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 28 percent of the total number of buyers in 2016 (up from 21 percent in 2015), the lowest of any other region. They were also a low of 30 percent in the South Atlantic. The share of first-time home buyers was booming, on the other hand, at 45 percent in the Middle Atlantic states of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, as well as at 42 percent in the New England states of Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, similar to 2015.
Diving into the demographics of first-time home buyers, we see that over time the median age held steady at 31 years for five years in a row from 2011-2015. In 2016, the median age increased slightly to 32 years for first-time buyers. Buyers aged 18-34 years have comprised the largest share of first-time home buyers at roughly 50-60 percent in the last few years. In 2016, buyers aged 25-34 years accounted for 56 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 (accounting for only 12 percent in 2016) and those over 75 years old.
The share of first-time home buyers grew for both buyers aged 35-44 years and aged 45-54 years. Buyers aged 35-44 years accounted for more of the first-time buyers’ share this year at 21 percent, up from 19 percent in 2015. Similarly, buyers aged 45-54 years also accounted for more first-time buyers this year at 10 percent, up from eight percent in 2015.
Buyer demographics also saw huge differences between household compositions for first-time buyers. Of the unmarried couples that bought a home last year, 60 percent (up from 57 percent in 2015) were first-time home buyers. In comparison, of the married couples that purchased a home, 32 percent were first-time buyers in 2016 (up from 27 percent in the previous year). Of the single males and single females that bought a home, 37 and 36 percent respectively (both down from 39 percent in 2015) were first-time home buyers.