New Zillow research finds the share of first-time buyers has hit 50%, the highest level in years
Half of all home buyers are purchasing their first home, the highest share that Zillow has ever recorded. Zillow’s 2023 Consumer Housing Trends Report finds that first-time buyers now make up 50% of all home buyers, up from 45% last year and a meaningful jump from 37% in 2021. The share of first-time buyers likely hasn’t been this high since around 2010, when there was a first-time home buyer tax credit.
First-time buyers are making gains relative to repeat buyers. Zillow research finds a vast majority of homeowners with mortgages have locked in a rate below 5%, and are almost half as likely to consider moving. It’s true that first-time buyers make up a larger piece of a smaller pie, as home sales and inventory shrink. However, this significant rise in the share of first-time buyers helps explain what’s driving demand and keeping upward pressure on prices in a market with mortgage rates surpassing 7%.
“High mortgage rates and a shortage of inventory is keeping would-be repeat buyers in their current homes,” said Zillow senior population scientist Manny Garcia. “A greater relative share of first-time buyers is filling the gap, and they’re competing against each other for the limited number of affordable starter homes on the market.”
Affordability is the greatest hurdle for first-time home buyers. It now takes nearly 12 years for a typical first-time buyer to save up for a down payment, compared to nine years prior to the pandemic. Meanwhile, the typical monthly home payment has more than doubled in that time. Yet the growing share of first-time buyers suggests many are getting creative to make homeownership a reality.
Zillow’s report finds that most first-time buyers are tapping at least two sources to finance their down payment (60%), most commonly their savings and gifts from family or friends. Down payment assistance can help, and available programs are included on every for-sale listing on Zillow.
There are other tools helping first-time buyers anticipate and manage monthly costs. A new app filter on Zillow allows shoppers to search for homes by monthly mortgage cost, instead of by list price. In addition, a growing share of buyers are paying an upfront fee to reduce the interest rate on their mortgage and in turn, lower their monthly payment. Research from Zillow Home Loans finds nearly 45% of conventional primary home borrowers bought points to ease monthly costs, compared to 30% who did the same in 2021.
Nearly half of first-time home buyers are millennials (49%), a massive generation of adults ages 29–43 who are fueling fundamental housing demand as they hit their prime home-buying years. Gen Z adults between 18 and 28 years old are hot on their heels, making up more than one-quarter of all first-time buyers (27%).
These younger buyers are debunking the “lazy millennial” myth by working harder during the home-buying process. Zillow’s report finds that first-time buyers are more likely to contact at least three real estate agents and three mortgage lenders, compared to repeat buyers. They’re also more likely to make at least two offers on homes, and are more likely to report being denied a mortgage at least once before they’re approved for a loan. First-time buyers are seeing their persistence pay off for a piece of the American Dream, and many still believe the opportunity to build equity outweighs today’s higher costs of entry.
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SOURCE Zillow, Inc.