Buying your first home is a traditional rite of passage. Years ago, couples (yes, COUPLES) bought homes soon after they married and they raised their families in those homes.
During the boom housing years, that changed a bit. Increasingly younger people — both singles and couples — bought condominiums, townhouses and smaller single-family homes in order to get a foot in the market and build equity. No one worried about living there long-term. They bought with the intention of selling in two or three years, expecting to make some money on booming property values. Then, they would invest in a larger home and either settle down or, maybe, repeat the process.
Today, post-boom, first-time buyers are older, according to local homebuilders. Whereas during the boom, initial buyers might have been 23 or 24, today, the average first-time buyer is more in the 28 to 30 age range or older, said Nate Amidon, director of sales for William Ryan Homes.
“Home equity is not compounding at the rate it was during the boom, so young buyers are no longer viewing the purchase of a home as a moneymaking venture. Consequently, they are choosing not to be tied down to one location or one home until they are ready to start a family, in most cases,” he said.
The fact that first-time buyers are now generally older actually blurs the lines with regard to what such a buyer purchases. Many who have high-paying jobs and have been saving money for a number of years are able to hop over the traditional starter home into a house that would have been considered a home for the move-up buyer a decade ago.
At West Point Gardens in Elgin, Pat Curran, president of West Point Builders, has been noticing first-time buyers purchasing homes in three different series — the Park Series detached townhouses and the Classic and Heritage single-family homes.
“Out of the last 10 homes we have sold, six have been to first-time buyers in their mid-20s to their low-30s. First were couples and there was one single (buyer),” Curran said.
“While they like our open floor plans, front porches, full basements and neighborhood feel, we have found the thing our first-time buyers like the best is the fact that we carefully walk them through the homebuilding process. They are nervous about it and love the fact that we have preferred lenders and walk them through the entire building and selections process, showing them the way. That seems to be a big relief,” he said.
West Point Gardens’ townhouses range in price from $174,990 to the low-$200,000s, while its two single-family product lines have many choices starting in the mid- to high-$240,000s. First-time buyers have generally been purchasing homes there priced up to the $270,000s, Curran said.
“Our first-time buyers have been looking for the structural things like full basements with roughed-in plumbing for a future bathroom, big front porches and open floor plans. Upgrades can come later, in many buyers’ minds. So they are choosing vinyl floors that look like wood and they are split 50/50 on whether they choose granite countertops,” he said.
“Our first-time buyers, most of whom are coming from Elgin, the I-90 corridor or elsewhere in the Fox Valley, like St. Charles or Geneva, (and) are saying they have finally chosen to purchase their first home because they are worried that after the November election, prices and interest rates may rise,” Curran said.
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