First-timers find a way to buy a house in tough market

While the last three years can only be termed a disaster for home builders and brokers alike, many first-timem home buyers nonetheless are finding a way to toss out their rent receipts for a mortgage.

In a just-released survey by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), first-time buyers composed 44 percent of the home-buying market during the late summer and early fall of 1980, according to Jack Carlson, chief economist for NAR.

''The median household income of the home buyers responding to the survey was However, he adds, ''about one-quarter of the buyers responding had incomes of less than $25,000.''

At the same time, brighter days are on the way, Carlson asserts.

''Although existing single-family home sales dipped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,950,000 units in November to 1,970,000 in October, it contrasted sharply with the steep drops in each of the four preceding months.''

Existing home sales have dropped more than 50 percent from the peak in 1978 in the longest and deepest housing depression since World War II.

The nationwide buyers' survey was conducted in 14 metropolitan areas: Atlanta , Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, Oakland, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Seattle, and Tampa/St. Petersburg.

Prices ranged from a high of $124,000 in San Francisco to a low of $48,900 in Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla. The median price of a house was $70,000.

Detached single-family homes are still the No. 1 choice of most married people with dependents, according to the NAR survey. ''More than 75 percent of the buyers selected detached single-family homes,'' says Carlson, followed by 11 percent who bought condominiums, 8 percent townhouses, and 5 percent two- and three-family houses.

Detached single-family homes are still the No. 1 choice of most married people with dependents, according to NAR. ''More than 75 percent of the buyers selected detached single-family homes,'' according to Mr. Carlson, followed by 11 percent who bought condominiums, 8 percent townhouses, and 5 percent two- and three-family houses.

Telling why they bought a house, some 39 percent of the 5,200 respondents to the survey listed the size of the home as ''very important,'' 40 percent said ''somewhat important,'' and 21 percent checked ''not important.''

The design of the house was very important to almost one-third of the buyers while 42 percent said it was somewhat important.

Fifty-seven percent said the availability of public transport was not important. The location of shopping was very important to 18 percent, somewhat important to 38 percent, and not important to 44 percent.

''While repeat buyers realized an average of $53,000 in equity from the sale of their previous home, the average amount of equity placed into the next home was about $29,000,'' said the NAR economist.

''This means that an average of $24,000 per existing home sale was available for other purposes,'' he added. ''This considerable sum is an indication of the significant impact an active resale market has on other sectors of the economy.''

Meanwhile, the next few months are expected to be an especially opportune time to get into the marketplace, according to some market watchers.

Indeed, mortgage interest rates are falling (between 2 and 3 percentage points on average) and, in some markets, sellers are being forced to drop the asking price, in some cases significantly. Numerous ''creative financing'' concepts are being offered by lenders as efforts continue to try to revive the long-depressed real-estate market.

Despite the rate drop, some viewers are far from sanguine, however.

''The best being said about housing is that it is 'reaching its bottom' in both resales and new home starts,'' asserts Sanford R. Goodkin, chairman of the Sanford R. Goodkin Research Corporation, Del Mar, Calif. Yet Goodkin sees this as more wishful thinking than trend.

''The best being said about housing is that it is 'reaching its bottom' in both resales and new home starts,'' asserts Sanford R. Goodkin, chairman of the Sanford R. Goodkin Research Corporation, Del Mar, Calif. Yet Mr. Goodkin sees this as more wishing thinking than trend.

''Even if it has bottomed, what a bottom and how long will that terrible bottom last? There are some lower interest rates in mortgages, but low they are not. It will take far lower than 15 percent to cause this sector to recover.''

No matter, the American dream of homeownership goes on, and a slow drop in mortgage-interest rates is far better than no drop at all.

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