Rick BissonReleased each year, the National Association of Realtors’ Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, identifies current consumer and housing trends. This year NAR identified the following trends: Rising student debt balances and smaller down payments; increases in single female and trade-up buyers; the increasing percentage of buyers paying the list price or higher; and the fact that nearly all respondents use a real estate agent to buy or sell a home.

Student debt balances continue to grow and cripple first-time home buyers. Forty-one percent of first-time buyers surveyed indicated they have student debt. The typical debt balance increased to $29,000 in 2017, up from $26,000 in 2016, and over half owe at least $25,000.

This increase may play a role in the decrease in down payments for first-time home buyers. The typical down payment for first-timers fell to 5 percent this year. It was 6 percent in 2016. Over half of first-timers said it took a year or more to save for a down payment.

Meanwhile, higher home values was likely the cause of 14 percent of sellers using more cash from their recent sale to make a bigger down payment on their new home purchase than the 11 percent that did so in 2016. Repeat buyers’ sales proceeds from their previous purchase surpassed their own personal savings this year as a larger source of their down payment.

The age of repeat buyers increased to an all-time survey high this year to 54 years old; up from 52 years old in 2016. The percent share of buyers trading up increased for the third straight year, rising to 52 percent from 46 percent in 2016. In 2014, 40 percent of buyers purchased a bigger home.

“The decline in first-time buyers and uptick in repeat buyers trading up to a larger home reflects the more favorable conditions for home shoppers at the upper end of the market, where listings are more plentiful and sales have been consistently higher over the past year,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

At 18 percent, single women were the second most common household buyer type behind married couples who lead the pack at 65 percent. Further, single women purchased slightly more expensive homes than single men despite earning less. The overall share of single male buyers was 7 percent, below 8 percent for unmarried couples for the second straight year.

The two top information resources for buyers remain the internet at 95 percent and real estate agents at 89 percent. Overall, 87 percent of buyers sought the advice and counsel of a real estate agent when purchasing a property. Help finding the right property and negotiating the terms of the sale were the top two things buyers wanted most from their agent. Even for those who found the home they purchased online, nearly all, 88 percent, still closed on the home with the help of an agent.

With home values steadily rising over the past several years, sellers realized a median equity gain of $47,500, up from $43,100 in 2016 – a 26 percent increase over the original purchase price. Homes sold after 21 years of ownership had the largest equity gain at 104 percent. Those who bought six or seven years ago saw a larger return of 27 percent than those who purchased between eight and 15 years ago. Their equity gain was 14 percent to 18 percent.

Low inventory has led to an increase in buyers paying list price or higher. Forty-two percent of buyers paid the list price or higher for their home, which is up from last year’s 40 percent and a new survey high since tracking began in 2007.

“Many of those in the market to buy a home this year had little room to negotiate,” said Yun. “Listings in the affordable price range drew immediate interest, and the winning offer often times had to waive some contingencies or come in at or above asking price to close the deal.”

Yun adds, “Solid economic conditions and millennials in their prime buying years should be translating to a lot more sales to first-timers, but the unfortunate reality is that the nation’s homeownership rate will remain suppressed until entry-level supply conditions increase enough to improve overall affordability.”

To learn more about the national trends of buyers and sellers, visit the National Association of Realtors’ website where you’ll find the complete 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. For more information about buying and selling a home in our Midcoast area, contact your trusted, expert Realtor.

This column is produced by Rick Bisson and his family, who own Bisson Real Estate with Keller Williams Realty of Midcoast and Sugarloaf.