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First-time homebuyers are finding it harder and harder to get into their dream home.

The National Association of Realtors said that first-time homebuyers make up only 28 percent of the national housing market in a Jan. 28 new story, the lowest number since the organization started measuring the demographic in 2008. According to the NAR, first-time homebuyers typically make up about 40 percent of the market, but several factors are keeping them from purchasing a home, including higher competition for lower priced properties, which are being swept up by investors at increasingly high rates.

Cash purchases accounted for 42.1 percent of all U.S. home sales in December, up from 38.1 percent in November, and up from 18 percent a year prior, according to RealtyTrac.

Tight credit is also preventing younger home buyers from qualifying for a mortgage to buy a home, as mortgage lenders require higher down payments. FHA loans, which many first-time home buyers turn to for the low downpayment requirements, have seen their market share decrease recently after an increase in premiums and fees this year made them less attractive to some.

However, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are lending more to first-time buyers, according to a report from Inside Mortgage Finance. The share of financing for first-time home buyers by the mortgage giants reached 19.5 percent in December, up from 14.1 percent a year prior.

Dallas agents have noticed this trend, too. Keller Williams Urban agent Britt Lopez says that in 2012 and 2013, first-time homebuyers made a huge impact on the market, coming off the fence to buy properties in the $300K to $400K range. In those two years, first-timers made up about 60 percent of her client base.

“I believe that the improvement in our basic economy here in Dallas has been the catalyst for the influx of ready, willing, and able buyers into the market,” Lopez added. “I also think that the interest rates and mortgage requirements play a huge part in the buying temperature. Potential buyers pay very close attention to the media regarding mortgage statistics and real estate prices. If a threat of rising rates and prices looks imminent then they will rush to buy now.”

On the other hand, some buyers have been squirrelling away, renting to save up for a down payment, waiting for the perfect time and perfect house to make the perfect investment. While planning is a great asset, sometimes buyers have missed out on deals by waiting too long.

“I believe that there are many buyers who have been ready for a while with their credit and down payment money, waiting for the most opportune time to buy. They watch and wait and pounce as soon as the right property comes available,” Lopez said. “The shortage of property has caused multiple offers to be much more common with many first-time buyers having to try for several homes before they get one.”

Kathy Murray has found that many first-time buyers have saved up for a considerable down payment — a must now that zero-down financing is more rare than a black rhino. Murray says she sees many first-time buyers with at least 20 percent down, but hasn’t closed on a first-time deal yet for 2014.

With new mortgage qualifications and increasing rates, it’s likely we’ll see fewer first-time buyers for the remainder of 2014. What do you think?

Woman Homebuyer

Sure, it’s easier to buy a home when you have a spouse. Dual income households tend to be a no-brainer to some mortgage lenders. But that hasn’t kept all the single ladies from becoming independent women with homes of their own and, of course, bills, bills, bills.

In fact, this segment of real estate consumers has been a survivor of sorts, reporting record growth as the economy digs its way out of a recession. According to a recent study from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard, the National Association of Realtors, and the U.S. Census Bureau, single women outpaced single men by a factor of two as new homeowners in 2011. And in that year, 56 percent of single women owned their own home, whereas just 47 percent of single men did.

Here’s a little excerpt from a great story about the topic from the Southern Way of Life blog:

For those skeptical about why a single woman would want to buy a 3 bedroom/2 bath home with a 2-car garage in a master-planned community, Cullinane has a quick rebuttal: “Many single women aren’t buying for themselves.  In fact, a recent AARP survey found that 40 percent of single female home buyers would consider having a non-romantic roommate – maybe a sister, maybe a long-time friend who’s also single.”  A larger home means two sisters or friends can lead separate lives, but not at twice the cost.

“And builders have been onto this trend for awhile now,” Cullinane said. “They’re building what I call ‘women-centric homes,’ or homes that can accommodate changing lifestyles. That’s why I’m a big proponent of something called ‘universal design’ – homes designed with tomorrow in mind.”

Jan Cullinane, a consultant and author of The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement, also sees this demographic as one that will grow as women age, either after divorce or being widowed.

Here’s my question for you ladies: If you were to buy a home without a spouse or partner, what are some features you couldn’t live without?

I’ll go first: I’d put a huge lighted vanity and makeup table in the master bathroom fit for a Hollywood starlet. What about you?