High Home Prices Weigh on Buyers Pushed Into Market by Rent Costs

Redfin poll finds external financial factors have little influence on decision to buy

Homebuyers have grown increasingly worried about affordability this summer, real estate broker Redfin reported Thursday.

Affordability concerns are especially acute among millennials, many of whom worry about being able to make a down payment.

Some 28% of homebuyers in a national survey, asked what their biggest concern about the housing market was, said prices were too high or were rising. Redfin said in a statement this was the largest percentage to cite the affordability concern in more than a year.

Other worries paled by comparison. Thirteen percent of respondents complained about too much competition from other buyers, and 12.4% about lack of inventory to choose from.

Only one in 10 said they had no major concerns.

Redfin noted that in previous surveys, the second- and third-most cited concerns made up a significantly higher percentage of total responses, indicating that affordability was gaining prominence as buyers’ chief concern.

Among millennials, affordability concerns were even more acute. Thirty-three percent cited it as their top concern, and 10% said they might not have enough money for a down payment. Only 7% said they had no concerns about the process.

Redfin’s survey, conducted between Aug. 7 and Aug. 15, included responses from 1,887 homebuyers in 41 states and Washington, D.C.

Forty-five percent of all first-time homebuyers in the poll said high rent had prompted them to enter the housing market, way up from 25% of first-time buyers who said this a year ago.

Among all buyers surveyed, 22% said rent costs had motivated them to get into the market, up from 13% in 2015, but down from 24% in May.

Overall, 26% of all buyers said they were most influenced to buy a house because of a recent life event, such as the birth of a child or a marriage, the same as a year ago.  

In contrast, external financial factors weighed lightly on homebuyers’ decision to buy.

More than 80% of survey respondents said that neither the June 23 Brexit vote nor the surging stock market had materially influenced their decision. And only 28% said housing was an important issues this election year.

Voters are not so sanguine about college student debt, however. A new survey found majorities of students and parents who intended to vote in November saying that candidates’ positions on the debt burden would influence their choice.

Asked what was most important in a home after price and size, 45% of all homebuyers cited the quality, design and layout of a home, 38% school quality, 32% lawn or green space and 30% length or ease of commute.

Perhaps not surprising, 43% of millennials said school quality was most important, edging out quality, design and layout. Thirty-five percent wanted yard or green space and 34% an easy commute.

--- Check out REITs Are Outperforming, but Some Sectors Are Stronger Than Others on ThinkAdvisor.

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