First-time US home buyers feeling defeated by high prices
March 15 (Reuters) – Brianna Lombardozzi finally has her finances to a point where she might be able to buy a house. But she isn’t feeling great about her odds.
Lombardozzi, 37, used her federal stimulus checks and other savings built up during the pandemic to pay down the majority of her credit card debt – a move that helped her credit score rise by almost 100 points.
But competition is intense for homes in her price range of $175,000 to $225,000 in Central, South Carolina, and she has had four bids rejected over the past month. Now with mortgage rates rising, she doesn’t know if she’ll find an affordable property before her lease is up at the end of May.
“Right now, I feel a little defeated,” said Lombardozzi, who works in housing for a local university.
As home prices soar, housing affordability is sinking to the lowest levels since 2008 and first-time buyers – who haven’t benefited from rising home values and are also coping with rising rents – are being squeezed out.
First-time US home buyers accounted for 27% of existing home sales in January, according to the National Association of Realtors, near 2014 levels. With mortgage rates above 4%, around the highest in about three years, and expected to rise further, buyers on tight budgets may struggle even more to find homes they can afford.
Demand for housing soared during the pandemic as buyers capitalized on record-low mortgage rates and remote workers sought more living space. Some people, like Lombardozzi, saved money they would have typically spent on travel or dining out while much of the economy was shut down, leaving them with more cash to potentially invest in a home.
At the same time, the number of homes for sale plunged as some owners stayed put because of uncertainty and supply-chain disruptions and labor shortages slowed new home construction.
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