How 3 Million Potential First-Time Homebuyers Were Kept Out of the Market

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About 3 million potential homebuyers have been kept out of the housing market over the past 10 years, according to a report published today by Genworth Mortgage Insurance, a unit of  Richmond, Virginia-based Genworth Financial.

This is Genworth’s inaugural first-time homebuyer market report, and the findings are crucial in determining the health of the housing market, still recovering from a historically devastating downturn that began a decade ago.

“First-time homebuyers have accounted for 85% of the growth in home sales and have become an important indicator for understanding market trends,” said Tian Liu, chief economist for Genworth Mortgage Insurance, in a statement Genworth said first-time homebuyers drove 85% of the home-purchase growth rate from 2014 to 2016, the fastest pace ever.

First-time homebuyers have been kept out of the housing market because of tight inventory that his driven housing prices higher in many markets around the country and because of tougher lending standards.

The report traces the first-time homebuyer market back to 1994 and analyzes more than 20 million records of first-time homebuyers from mortgage origination data. The report tracks housing data on monthly and quarterly intervals, allowing for first-time homebuyer data to be compared against national housing market indicators.

Among the findings of the report, during the first quarter of 2017, first-time homebuyers purchased the most single-family homes since 2005, snapping up 424,000 single-family homes, an 11% increase from 2016. First-time homebuyers accounted for 38% of all single-family home sales in that period.

The year 2016 was the strongest one for the first-time homebuyer market in 11 years, with 2 million first-time homebuyers, or 15% more than in 2015. First-timers accounted for 37% of all single-family homes sold in 2016, a gain of 34% from the prior year.

The report estimates that historically 1.8 million first-time homebuyers bought homes each year between 1994 and 2016, or 35% of all single-family homes sold. The Genworth report says that because of the housing crisis, only 1.5 million first-time homebuyers have been able to purchase homes in the past 10 years, 3 million fewer than the historical average.

The surge in the first-time homebuyer market in the past two years was accompanied by a marked increase in the low down payment mortgage market. Between 2014 and 2016, 89% of the increase in the first-time homebuyer market came from those using low down payment mortgages. Federal Housing Administration loans, conventional loans with private mortgage insurance, and Veterans Administration loans accounted for almost all of the increase in the low down payment mortgage market.