Characteristics of Recent Home Buyers

A total of 8.8 million households bought homes in the two years preceding the release of the 2017 American Housing Survey (AHS).  For its February Special Study, the National Association of Home Builders used the 2017 AHS to analyze trends among recent home buyers. The AHS is a nationally representative survey of residential structures in the US and of the households that occupy them (sponsored by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and conducted by the Census Bureau biennially in odd-numbered years).

Of those 8.8 million recent home buyers in the 2017 AHS (Graph 1), 3.3 million were first-time buyers and 5.5 million were trade-up buyers. The level of recent home buyers reached a cycle high of 11.6 million in the 2005 AHS, but after the recession hit, it fell to a low of 6.8 million in 2011. The number of home buyers has been climbing since then to 7.3 million in 2013, 7.9 million in 2015, and 8.8 million in 2017.

The following are key characteristics of home buyers in the 2017 AHS:

Demographic Characteristics of the 8.8 million home buyers:

  • Thirty-seven percent of all recent home buyers were first-time buyers, slightly down from 39 percent in 2015.
  • The typical home buyer was 40 years old, unchanged from the median age in 2015.
  • Recent home buyers had a median household income of $86,623, up from a median of $78,739 in 2015.
  • Twenty-seven percent of recent home buyers were racial or ethnic minorities, about the same as in 2015 (26 percent).

Characteristics of the 8.8 million homes purchased:

  • The median price of homes purchased by recent home buyers was $228,389, up 10 percent from $208,573 in 2015.
  • Recent home buyers purchased homes with a median of 1,890 sq. ft., essentially unchanged from 1,900 sq. ft. in 2015.

How the 8.8 million homes were purchased:

  • Eleven percent of recent home buyers purchased a home without a down payment, the same share as in 2015.
  • Fifty-two percent of recent home buyers used savings or cash on hand for the down payment, a slight decrease from 54 percent in 2015.

This post brought to you by NAHB Eye on Housing. Please visit the special study page to view the full report, Characteristics of Recent Home Buyers. There, you can also find history tables of the data going back to 2001.