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Homebuyer trends have shifted since the novel coronavirus began to impact the economy, and for many Americans, that includes changes to job status and, therefore, home-buying affordability. While new hurdles to homeownership are in play, however, the previous year’s trends should not go forgotten, as they could still help shed light on the future of the industry. A new report from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR)—Downpayment Expectations and Hurdles to Homeownership—takes a look at last year’s home-buying and down payment trends.

The biggest hurdle for buyers in 2019? Saving for a down payment. Of all respondents, 13 percent of buyers said saving for their down payment was the most difficult task in the home-buying process—26 percent of first-time buyers and 7 percent of repeat buyers said the same.

The biggest indicator is the continuous need for financial assistance. In order to purchase in 2019, 16 percent of surveyed buyers used a gift or loan from a friend or relative to put toward their down payment. For first-time buyers, that help was even more significant—32 percent paid for their home’s down payment with gift money. Repeat buyers didn’t have to rely on this aid nearly as much—only 8 percent used gift money toward their down payment in 2019. Generationally, millennials rank at the top as most likely to receive gifted down payment funds, at 24 percent.

REALTORS® have also witnessed these trends. Of members surveyed, 65 percent said that, in the last five years, they’ve had clients receive down payment help from either a parent or relative. But could this have larger implications on transactions? According to 35 percent of surveyed members, a family member’s financial help tends to influence where a buyer decides to purchase.

Who is providing this help? According to the report, the silent generation (34 percent) and older baby boomers (31 percent) were most likely to help their children or family members by providing gift money so they could purchase a home. Overall, 21 percent of those surveyed said they’ve helped a family member or their child purchase a home by gifting down payment funds.

For many, having family involved is just a part of the typical transaction. While 32 percent of surveyed members said they’ve seen no change in family-member involvement in the last five years, 28 percent said they have. And the report shows that 25 percent of members said their buyers brought their family members to home viewings, and 30 percent said that between 1 and 10 percent of prospective buyers brought their family members when viewing homes. These relationships often go deeper—a median of 40 percent said buyers consulted with their family members when purchasing a home.

There’s been a consistent thread in terms of savings hurdles—student loan debt. Since 2015, it has been the most cited expense (by 51 percent in 2019) delaying home-buying, as it keeps individuals from being able to save for their down payment. In addition, credit card debt was a hurdle for 45 percent in 2019, and for 38 percent, it was car loans. Those surveyed also stated health care costs (18 percent) stood in their way in 2019, as did child care expenses (16 percent).

Much of the problem, however, is a lack of education. Most consumers believe they need at least 20 percent for a down payment, with 35 percent believing they need between 16 to 20 percent. Only 21 percent believed they could purchase a home with a 6 to 10 percent down payment.

“Down payment is always difficult to save up for first-time homebuyers, especially in times of fast home price appreciation in excess of income growth. Higher standards placed on down payment will therefore hold back homeownership opportunity,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR. “Stable income growth is also a big factor in purchasing a house. It is a long-term investment requiring a steady stream of monthly payments. Disruptions to income or confidence about the economic outlook will therefore hurt homeownership.

“More inventory is needed to assure home prices do not outpace income growth. There will be even fewer listings during the pandemic period, but it is hoped that more listings pop out once the economy re-opens,” adds Yun. “Student debt has been a lingering factor in delaying the entry time of first home purchase by younger adults. And this issue will continue in the future. On the positive side, mortgage rates are and will remain at historic lows and that may bring to the market people with secure employment to take advantage.”

 For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s senior editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

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