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More Cash Sales, Shrinking Time on Market Show Changing Buyer Dynamics

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All-cash buyers have surged since the housing downturn while the typical amount of time it takes to sell a home is shrinking, revealing the changing dynamics of today’s home buyers and sellers.

Academic experts took a closer look at cash buyers and how time-on-market impacts home sales during the “Changing Dynamics of Recent Home Buyers and Sellers” session last week at the 2012 REALTORS® Conference and Expo. Funding for the research was provided by the REALTOR® University Center for Real Estate Studies.

“We’ve seen a tremendous increase in cash buyers since the housing downturn that we haven’t seen before in history,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of REALTORS®. Yun said a decade ago all-cash home purchases were less than 10 percent of the market but have increased steadily since 2008, to as much as 30 percent of sales.

Yun said the increase in more buyers paying cash for real estate reflected tight lending conditions and an increase in investor sales, which account for the bulk of cash sales. Increases in the number of international buyers, who often have financing difficulties when purchasing a home in the U.S., are also adding to the rise in cash sales. NAR research shows that 62 percent of international purchases were all cash; the percentage has continually increased since 2007.

Recent NAR research on down payment sources may offer insights into how cash buyers are receiving funds for home purchases. According the 2012 NAR Home Buyers and Sellers Profile, 40 percent of repeat buyers use the proceeds from the sale of their primary residence as a source of down payment, but downsizing boomers may have enough equity left from their home sale to pay all cash for their next purchase. Yun also noted that one in 10 buyers rely on proceeds from the sale of stocks or 401K disbursements for down payments; those with stable jobs and who saw investment gains in recent years may be using those cash funds to buy a home outright rather than financing the purchase.

Dr. Grant Ian Thrall, president of the American Real Estate Society, agreed that cash sales have increased dramatically in recent years. Thrall spoke at the session and conducted an in-depth market analysis to gain greater insights into cash buyers.

“Research shows a bias toward cash sales for newer and lower priced homes,” Thrall said. “Many of those sales are occurring within the first 60 days that the home is on the market, and more than half sold within the first 120 days.”

Thomas Springer, professor of Finance and Real Estate at Clemson University, discussed how time-on-market responds to employment changes and varies with shifting market and economic conditions. Springer analyzed market data from more than two dozen metro areas. His findings indicate that, at the property level, time-on-market is a function of property characteristics, price and market factors; however, at market level, time-on-market is a function of local, national and global economic and market factors.

Springer determined that time-on-market is a possible indicator of market conditions or risk and that in a vibrant market, time-on-market is shorter, whereas distressed markets often have a longer average time-on-market.

Yun said that tightened inventory conditions are also impacting time-on-market, which has steadily decreased nationally since the start of the year, as are home buyers’ search processes.

“Tightened inventories in some places mean homes are selling more quickly and reducing time-on-market,” Yun said. “Our research shows that last year, home buyers saw 10 homes before buying, down from 12 the year before, and more than half of buyers reported that finding the right home was the hardest part of the home search process.”

For more information, visit www.realtor.org.

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