Andrew Wetzel's Musings

May 9, 2020

How Buyers Bought Real Estate in 2019: Who is the Typical Buyer? Part 1 of 2.

Today I want to discuss the 2019 NAR or National Association of REALTORS Profile of Buyers and Sellers.  The report comes from a survey using 125 questions mailed to over 159,750 recent home buyers who purchased a primary residence between July 2018 and June 2019.  This was a national survey so your market may be quite different.  Real Estate is local:  there is no national Real Estate market so please contact me for information about your local market.

This is Part 1 of 2 and will focus on buyer characteristics, meaning who is the typical buyer.  In Part 2, I will focus on the process the typical buyer used to find their home, the results they achieved and how they felt about the experience.  There will be some overlap between the parts.

As I learned years ago, buying a home is an emotional decision justified with logic.  This is what can make it fun or not.  The process can be interesting enough when there is only one buyer involved.  People have different ways of making decisions and we all handle challenges and stress differently.  Buying a home typically offers plenty of both.  When more than one buyer is involved, there can be quite a negotiation between the parties and they often seek my opinion.  Purchasing a home is typically the largest financial transaction anyone will ever make and it involves many lifestyle factors.  It is a serious process.  Here are some highlights:

  • 33% were first-time buyers, the same as in 2018. The historic number has been 40%.  The typical buyer was 47 years old, with those age 25 to 34  accounting for 24% of all sales;
  • Buyers moved a median distance of 15 miles while those who sold one primary residence to buy another moved a median distance of 20 miles;
  • There were several reasons mentioned for buying: 81% felt that a home purchase was a good investment; 66% of first-time buyers wanted to own their home as did most buyers under age 61; those over 61 mentioned being closer to family and friends or down-sizing;
  • Buyers expected to live in their homes for a median time of 15 years with 20% saying 1 to 5 years, 45% saying 16 or more and 20% saying they did not plan on making another move;
  • As far as motivating factors influencing location: 63% prioritized the quality of the neighborhood, 46% convenience to their job, 44% the affordability of the house (owning can be cheaper than renting!), 26% the quality of the school district, 20% walkability.  When you buy a house, you are buying the neighborhood and a lifestyle:  this is more than simply buying a product;
  • As far as characteristics of the home and how they compromised: 25% prioritized price, 23% condition, 19% size, 7% quality of the neighborhood, 3% quality of the schools.  29% did not compromise.
  • 44% of buyers looked online before doing anything else with 93% using the Internet at some point during the process; 16% started by contacting an agent; 12% started by looking online for information about the process; only 7% started by contacting a lender or bank. This can be good or bad, depending on what a buyer really knows and understands about the process and their local market.  There is a wealth of information online but my experience suggests that much of it is wrong or does not apply to all markets.  Some buyers will spend valuable time “shopping”, which is admittedly the “fun part”, instead of doing other things that might make their search easier, especially if they find that they need to do some homework to get financing.  They might find a home they really like only to find themselves unprepared or unable to compete with other buyers who had a better game plan.  The process can make all the difference;
  • 93% of buyers relied on the Internet for information; 87% on an agent. Traditional methods are still used but to a much lesser extent than in the past.  For example, only 51% visited open houses, 39% looked for “For Sale” signs and 11% looked at newspapers.   Please keep in mind that these statistics refer to sources use to search for available properties, not necessarily what led to a sale;
  • 65% walked through homes they found online; 41% drove by and did not go inside. You might be amazed to learn that, while driving through a neighborhood to see if it meets your needs is an excellent way to narrow your focus, many buyers eliminate houses simply because the exterior needs some attention;
  • Buyers typically searched for 10 weeks and looked at a median of 9 homes. They waited for 3 weeks before contacting an agent.  A lot can happen in 3 weeks!  On the other hand, buyers who did not use the Internet spent 4 weeks searching and viewed 4 homes.  I wonder which group was more satisfied with their purchase in the long run;
  • For internet “shoppers”, 87% found photos and 85% found detailed property information very useful. They enjoy the “online shopping experience” much more than actually looking at house after house.  What an agent uploads to their MLS typically feeds “as-is” to the Internet:  too often this is a case of “garbage in; garbage out”.  Sadly, many listing agents make looking at their property listings more challenging than it should be.  Many property listings offer few quality photos, some listings have none and many are not labeled making it often difficult to know what you are looking at.  Many agents use their cell phone for taking pictures.  I often see photos that seem to have been uploaded randomly, bouncing from interior to exterior and even turned sideways or upside down.  I also see poorly written or missing descriptions as well as listings having minimal searchable features which can make it difficult for those listings to even appear in a buyer’s search results and, when they do, a buyer may not really know what they are looking at.  The result is that they click through to the next property listing.  The good news for buyers is that properties attracting little attention often get needlessly reduced in price which rewards a persistent buyer.  If you are a seller, have you been asked to reduce your price?  Have you seen your MLS printout and searched online for your own property?;
  • 52% of buyers who used the Internet found the property they bought online. 71% who used a mobile device found their home through a mobile application.  29% through an agent;
  • 89% of buyers used a Real Estate agent and 91% who used the Internet used an agent; 5% bought directly from a builder or builder’s agent; 4% bought directly from the owner which would include FSBOs or “private sales” where one or both parties are not professionally represented. The number using a professional has actually trended higher since the Internet entered the picture.  This proves to me that we can coexist with the so-called third-party sites if we bring “value” to the process.  Our “value” extends well beyond searching for houses.  Once you identify a house that you like, there are a number of steps that must be taken to get it under contract and then to complete the purchase.  This is no time to cut corners!
  • 52% of buyers wanted a Real Estate agent to help them find the right house, 23% wanted help negotiating (12% mentioned “terms” while 11% mentioned “price”), 8% wanted help with paperwork and 6% wanted help valuing comparables.

Buying Real Estate is a unique purchase:  not only is it much less frequent than other purchases, it typically involves multiple steps, each offering their own challenges.  If you would like to discuss buying or selling or if you have any thoughts about this, please contact me.  Please look for Part 2.

Please look for my post on how sellers sold Real Estate in 2019.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations!

 HIRE WISELY!  We are not all the same!

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