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Housing Then and Now: Trends in Home Buyer and Sellers Across 35 Years

Housing Then and Now: Trends in Home Buyer and Sellers Across 35 Years

posted: 01/03/2018

Central Mississippi REALTORS

620 N. State Street Suite 100
Jackson, MS 39202

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

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Housing Then and Now: Trends in Home Buyer and Sellers Across 35 Years

Happy Holidays! Tis’ the season for making memories and reflecting on the years past.  As the year draws to a close, let’s take a look back to see how real estate activity has evolved.  With the recent release of the “2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers” survey, it’s a great time to look at some of the data and trends in this year’s edition and how they stack up to the last three-and-a-half decades.

In 1981, the National Association of Realtors® introduced the first “Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.”  At that time, consumers and Realtors® navigated a much different real estate landscape. The internet hadn’t been invented and the average monthly mortgage rate was 15.12 percent. While many home buyer and seller behaviors and preferences have changed, one important constant during this time has been Realtors®’ role as the leading advocate for homeownership.  The “2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers” reports that 87% of buyers recently purchased a home through a real estate agent or broker, compared to 82% in 1981. Likewise, 89% of home sellers worked with a real estate agent to sell their home this year.

Since NAR’s inaugural survey, consumer preferences have evolved and housing costs have gotten more expensive. In 1981, the typical buyer purchased a 1,700-square-foot home costing $70,000 ($201,376 in inflation-adjusted dollars).  In the 2017 survey, purchased homes were typically 1,870 square feet and cost $235,000.

In 1989, when NAR started collecting buyer data on down payments, first-time homebuyers financed their purchase with a 10 percent down payment and repeat buyers financed a loan with a 23 percent down payment. As low-down-payment mortgage programs entered the marketplace and credit standards eased, the typical amount of money put down fell to as low as 2 percent for first-time buyers both in 2005 and 2006.  For repeat buyers, the smallest median down payment was 13 percent both in 2012 and 2014, which is likely due to reduced equity in the home that was sold.  In recent years, down payment amounts have remained mostly unchanged, coming in at 6 percent for first-time buyers the last two surveys and either 13 percent or 14 percent for repeat buyers in the past four surveys.

Comparison of Home Buyers Then & Now

  • The typical buyer age rose to 45 yrs., a peak reached only in 2011. In 1981, the typical buyer was between the ages of 25 – 34.
  • The share of single female buyers has increased for 3 years to 18%. In 1981, just 11% were single female buyers.
  • Buyers of new homes made up 15%, which is historically low compared to 29% in 1989.
  • First-time buyers made up 34% of all home buyers, a decrease from last year’s 35%. In 1981, the share of first-time buyers was 44%.

Comparison of Home Sellers Then & Now

  • Sellers typically lived in their home for 10 years before selling. In 1985, the median tenure was only 5 years.
  • Recently sold homes were on the market for a median of 3 weeks, a historical low, and down from 8 weeks in 1987.
  • 89% of home sellers worked with a real estate agent to sell their home.

To learn more about buying or selling a home, contact a Central Mississippi REALTOR®. View a directory of agents at To view the 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, visit