Home Prices Are the Principal Barrier to Homeownership


As revealed in a previous post, 58% of buyers actively searching for a home to buy in the fourth quarter of 2018 have been looking – unsuccessfully – for three months or longer. Why is it taking these buyers that long to pull the trigger?  The most important reason is they can’t find a home at a price they can afford (49%), followed by not being able to find a home with the features they want (44%), and not finding a home in the neighborhood of their choice (43%).  Comparing these findings to similar data from the fourth quarter of 2017 shows that these barriers to homeownership only intensified during the year in question.

Reasons Active Buyers Have Been Unsuccessful Finding a Home to Buy for 3+ Months
(Percent of Active Home Buyers)

The final question in NAHB’s Housing Trends report (HTR) asks these veteran house hunters, who have been actively searching for a home for at least three months, about their future plans if the right home remains elusive in the months ahead:

  • 63% will continue looking for the ‘right’ home in the same preferred location,
  • 44% will expand the search area,
  • 23% is willing to accept a smaller/older home,
  • 18% might buy a more expensive home

Next Steps if Still Unable to Find Home in Months Ahead
(Percent of Prospective Home Buyers Looking for 3+ Months)


Giving up on homeownership is the least likely outcome, as only 16% will stop trying to find a home. Future polls will determine how this propensity to postpone homeownership will change, if at all, given the ongoing affordability challenges buyers continue to face.

Share of Prospective Home Buyers Looking for 3+ Months
Who Will Give Up Trying

* The Housing Trends Report (HTR) is a research product created by the NAHB Economics team with the goal of measuring prospective home buyers’ perceptions about the availability and affordability of homes for-sale in their markets. The HTR is produced quarterly to track changes in buyers’ perceptions over time. All data are derived from national polls of representative samples of American adults conducted for NAHB by Morning Consult. Results are not seasonally adjusted due to the short time horizon of the series and therefore only year-over-year comparisons are statistically valid. A description of the poll’s methodology and sample characteristics can be found here. This is the fifth and final in a series of posts highlighting results for the fourth quarter of 2018. See previous posts on plans to buy, housing availability, and housing affordability, and active buyers.

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1 reply

  1. This Is to be expected following increases in mortgage interest rates. While increasing rates naturally affect affordability, those sales and mortgage professionals who have dealt with higher interest rates in the past should be able to address affordability, using some imagination, creativity and ingenuity. They realize that people shop based on price but they buy based on initial investment amount and monthly payment. They also realize that the most important monthly payment to buyers is the initial payment and most will accept planned realistic increases over time. This makes a temporary mortgage buydown an extremely effective tool and it can be employed without busting the builder’s budget. Since interest rates remain near historical lows at about 4.5% for a 30 year FRM, a relatively inexpensive 1.5% – 1/2% temporary buydown would provide a first year interest rate of 3% (matching the recent low) and a second year rate of 4% before reaching the note rate of 4.5% at the beginning of the third year. The cost should be well less than 2% of the mortgage amount. Another important point is, if you offer an initial interest rate of 3%, you must advertise it effectively, including minimum down payment and closing cost information to show your product is affordable. The key is to emphasize how affordable your product is rather than its price. Finally, if your mortgage provider does not know about temporary buydowns, find yourself another provider.

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