By Cicely Wedgeworth
You want a real estate revolution? We’ve got you covered: Next year, more than half of all homes will be bought by first-time home buyers, according to an exclusive survey of buyers by realtor.com®. It’s a seismic shift from 2016. And here’s the kicker: Most of those newbies will be millennials.
Get ready for a new-look housing market.
Each year, realtor.com® does an annual survey of home shoppers to get to the heart of home-buying trends. And what we found this year is a true sea change in the buying population that will affect which homes and neighborhoods are the most desirable in 2017.
In sharp contrast with 2016, when only 33% of people planning to buy a home were first-time buyers, 52% of buyers with their eye on a home purchase next year will be first-timers. And 61% of those are under age 35.
“This represents an ‘Oh, shift’ moment in housing,” says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for realtor.com®. Smoke’s team analyzed responses from active shoppers on our site who plan to buy a home in the spring or summer of 2017. “With so many first-time buyers in the market, competition will be even fiercer next year for affordable starter homes in the suburbs. Those looking to buy may want to consider a winter home purchase in order to avoid bidding wars and higher prices spurred by a potential increase in millennial buyers.”
What motivates—and scares—millennial buyers
Although a shortage of homes for sale will continue to dog the market, first-time buyers are more worried about financial issues, according to the survey. Topping the list: coming up with a down payment (37%) and finding a home within their budget (30%). With all the emphasis on financial issues, millennial buyers want to make sure that their money is well spent: Making a sound financial investment is a top goal.
This new generation of first-time home buyers is focused on safety, privacy, and more space, indoors and out. That’s because millennials’ top reasons for buying a home are that they’re getting married or moving in with a partner, growing tired of their current living space, or planning a lil’ addition to the family. Or perhaps all three!
So it’s no wonder that millennial buyers prefer single-family homes (39%) or townhomes (34%). Just 15% are interested in multifamily homes, and 10% in condos.
Suburbs appeal to millennials and boomers alike
So, let’s see, where can you buy a big house with a yard in a safe neighborhood? You probably guessed it: the suburbs! First-time home buyers identify the suburbs as their No. 1 preferred location (43%). In fact, so do 50% of all respondents.
“The majority of home-owning Americans live in the suburbs, so the popularity of the suburbs isn’t a new phenomenon,” comments Smoke. “But the increasing preference by millennials represents a shift from the more urban locations where many of them have been renting.”
But that doesn’t mean our cities are going to empty out: Those urban areas are the second most popular option among millennials.
Meanwhile, baby boomers are also keen on the suburbs—either because they already live there and want to remain close to friends and family, or because they’re moving to another suburb where their adult children (and probably grandchildren) live.