After the 2008 crash, first-time homebuyers, as well as repeat buyers, have been affected by the soaring prices of a rebounding US housing market. But how do the challenges in the entry-level buyer segment compare to the issues and concerns of the move-up buyers? To answer this, we analyzed numbers from NAR and the US Census and found some compelling facts:
- Compared to 2009, the median home price has increased by as much as 101% and 100% in San Diego and San Francisco, followed by Austin, where home prices have almost doubled as well;
- The share of first-time buyers has been on a downward trend – entry-level buyers represented 50% of the total sales numbers in 2010, whereas in 2018 this share dropped to 33%;
- The price difference between a home bought by a first-timer and a home purchased by a move-up buyer is also decreasing, going from 31% in 2009 to 27% in 2018;
- The median age of a first-time buyer increased from 30 years old in 2009 to 32 years old in 2018, but the median age of repeat buyers has really gone up: from 48 years old in 2009 to 55 in 2018;
- The average size of a new home increased from 1,580 sq.ft. in 2008 to 1,670 sq.ft. in 2013, only to start dropping again, settling at 1,600 sq.ft. in 2018.
First-time home buyers everywhere have a tough time entering the housing market. Ever-increasing home prices, insufficient supply, and tight credit rules are the main culprits. In addition, crushing student debt and high rents only add insult to injury, making it almost impossible for the majority of first-timers to start saving for a down payment.
Repeat home buyers have different issues and experience different challenges, such as loss of equity and incomes that can’t keep up. However, the rebound of the housing market after the 2007-2008 crash means that, just like the entry-level buyers, repeaters are also facing soaring property prices.
Home prices increased by 35% at a national level, compared to 2009, but some markets have seen much more significant gains. In San Diego, the average home price went up 101%, followed by San Francisco, where home prices have also doubled compared to less than a decade ago, going from $638,661 to $1,274,500. In the following 10 cities, home prices have seen the most spectacular jumps:
MEDIAN HOME PRICE CHANGES: These rapidly increasing prices put a lot of pressure on prospective homebuyers from both segments, but demand is bound to increase for more affordable homes, which are, of course, starter homes and condos. As a response to the growing demand, between 2009 and 2018, the median price of an entry-level home has risen faster than home prices in the move-up buyer segment. Currently, a first-time homebuyer needs to pay 31% more for a home, compared to a repeat buyer, who is looking at a smaller increase of 25%.
PRICE GAP: The price gap between starter homes and homes bought by repeat buyers is slowly closing. According to our analysis of NAR and US Census numbers, in 2009 there was a 31% difference between the median price of a starter home and the median price of a home from the repeat buyer segment. By 2018, that difference fell to 27%, pointing to a slow but insidious trend.
SHARE OF FIRST-TIME BUYERS: As a consequence, since 2009, when the share of first-time buyers reached 47% of total sales, and especially since 2010 when this share hit 50%, the percentage of first-timers has been in free fall. In the total number of sales, first-time buyers represented only 32% in 2015, and that share only crawled back to a meager 33% in 2018.
MEDIAN AGE: Another consequence of all these cards stacking up against prospective home buyers is that the median age of first-time buyers went from 30 years old in 2009 to 32 in 2018. Moreover, repeat buyers have been hit even harder: the short period between 2009 and 2018 was enough for the median age in the repeat buyer segment to increase by a staggering 7 years, from 48 to 55.
INCOME: Income evolution has also been an aggravating factor. In a housing market that is only now slowly beginning to cool-off and give first-time buyers a sliver of hope, home prices still hurtle ahead of inflation, not to mention income. While home prices in the entry-level segment went up 31% between 2009 and 2018, the income of first-time homebuyers only grew by 22%.
Plummeting house prices during and immediately after the recession meant that millions of homeowners could no longer accumulate equity. Moreover, the number of homeowners who foreclosed was also extremely high, resulting in fewer people affording to upgrade. So although Millennials, Gen Z-ers, and other first-time buyers believe it’s hard to get a foot on the housing ladder, climbing upward has been almost equally difficult.
Buying a starter home is increasingly challenging, but upgrading from a modest condo to a house and then an even bigger house might take more than a lifetime. Although the past 2 months have seen home prices rise at the slowest pace in almost 7 years, buyers are still reluctant. And who can blame them?
For the purpose of this study, we analyzed demographics, income, and home price data from NAR‘s 2018 profile of Homebuyers and Sellers, the US Census, and several national and local portals and brokerages: PropertyShark, HAR, ABOR.
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