More first-time homebuyers take advantage of a low downpayment loan compared to all homebuyers, according to the February 2017 REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey Report, a monthly survey of REALTORS® about their sales activity and local market conditions.
Among all buyers whose transaction closed in February 2017, 62 percent of those who obtained a mortgage made a downpayment of less than 20 percent. Among first-time homebuyers who obtained a mortgage and whose transactions closed in December 2016–February 2017, 80 percent made a downpayment of less than 20 percent.
Among first-time homebuyers, 65 percent put down a zero to six percent downpayment, a decrease from the 74 percent share in June 2009 when NAR started collecting this information in the RCI Survey.
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) have implemented policies to make credit more widely available, such as FHA’s reduction of its annual mortgage insurance premiums and the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) acceptance of three percent downpayment mortgages. However, the impact of these measures in attracting first-time homebuyers appears to be modest for a variety of reasons. Lack of information about these products may be one reason. In fact, NAR’s 2016 Q3 Housing Opportunities and Market Experience (HOME) Survey found that only 13 percent of those aged 34 or under believe they need a downpayment of five percent or less. Additionally, although low downpayment loans are available, some buyers may want to save for a bigger downpayment to meet underwriting standards (e.g., debt-to-income ratios, loan-to-value ratios), save on mortgage insurance, or get a lower interest rate.
The author thanks Danielle Hale, Managing Director, Housing Research; Meredith Dunn, Research Communications Manager; and Amanda Riggs, Research Survey Analyst for their comments. Any errors are attributable to the author.
 To increase the sample size for first-time homebuyers, NAR uses information from the last three surveys.