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Why It's So Tough Being a First-Time Buyer

December 25th, 2020 12:51 PM by Jackie A. Graves, President

Many first-time buyers are being priced out of the housing market as inventory shortages persist. Adding to the woes, home prices have risen annually by double-digit percentages.

While home sales have increased during the pandemic, the market share of first-time buyers has mostly stayed the same. First-time buyers made up 32% of sales in November, about equal to a year ago, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ latest existing-home sales report. “Housing affordability, which had greatly benefited from falling mortgage rates, is now being challenged due to record-high home prices,” says NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “That could place a strain on some potential consumers, particularly first-time buyers.”

The median price for an existing home in November was $310,800, a 14.6% jump from a year ago, NAR reports. Prices rose in every region across the U.S. “We have clearly seen a bifurcated outcome in the housing market,” Yun told Newsweek. “People who can work from home or have exposure to the stock market have done well in 2020, but those on the front lines at restaurants, hotels, and grocery stores—who tend to be renters—have not.”



Low mortgage rates and the ability for more people to work from home have helped to lift home sales, he says. Existing-home sales were nearly 26% higher in November than a year ago. Mortgage rates are at the lowest averages since Freddie Mac began tracking such data in 1971. Last week, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged an all-time low of 2.67%.

As for first-time buyers, they may need to explore down payment assistance programs to help them afford homeownership. Besides federal loan programs that offer low or no down payment options, there are more than 2,500 down payment assistance programs nationwide, according to a 2019 report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. Real estate pros can educate their clients about down payment assistance programs.

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