Is the Entry-Level Home Vanishing?

For-sale inventories may be at nearly a two-year high, but first-time home buyers are still finding themselves shut out of the housing market, being outbid and still not finding enough choices in their price range, Reuters reports.

A decline among inventories for entry-level homes has worsened during the past year as discount foreclosures have faded and investors have continued to buy up low-priced homes and turn them into rentals through all-cash deals. Also hampering the inventory picture, lower-priced properties are more likely to have home owners with underwater mortgages, preventing them from moving on and putting their homes on the market, Reuters reports.

“It’s bad news for people looking for a starter home that all the choices are disappearing,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of REALTORS®. “People shouldn’t expect inventory to show up on the low end. It’s not available.”

The number of homes for sale below $198,000, considered the bottom third of the market, dropped 17 percent in June compared to a year earlier, according to an analysis by the real estate brokerage Redfin, which tracked 31 of the largest U.S. metro markets. On the other hand, inventories rose 3 percent in the middle of the market and soared 15 percent at the top, according to the analysis.

First-time home buyers are often drawn to the lower-priced homes, and their dwindling numbers in recent years have reflected some of the struggles in finding an affordable home. First-time home buyers accounted for 28 percent of all sales of previously owned homes in June, which is down from a historical average of about 40 percent, according to NAR research.

Source: “First-Time Buyers Shut Out of Expanding U.S. Home Supply,” Bloomberg News Online (Aug. 12, 2014)