Mar 22, 2023 - Economy

Homebuyers are putting less money down now, as bidding wars fade

Data: Redfin; Chart: Axios Visuals

Homebuyers aren't putting as much money down as they were at the height of the housing frenzy.

What's happening: The typical U.S. homebuyer made a down payment of $42,000 in January, the lowest number in almost two years, per a report out from Redfin Wednesday morning, provided exclusively to Axios.

  • The median downpayment is now 10% of the purchase price of the house, off its peak of 17.5%, (which amounted to $65,000), in May 2022.

State of play: High mortgage rates changed the calculus around down payments.

  • The rates crushed the market and drove a lot of people away, so there's less competition now. Buyers don't need to distinguish themselves from other bidders with big deposits.
  • Background: When a lot of buyers are vying for a home, a chunky down payment is a sign to the seller that you're a safe bet compared to someone putting less money down, who could be stretching to afford a house — a sign that their financing could fall through.

Meanwhile, home prices haven't come down very much. They fell for the first time year over year this February and only by 0.2% from last year, according to a report out Tuesday from the National Association of Realtors.

  • Add higher rates to that equation and you get buyers facing higher monthly payments, who are more constrained in what they can afford to put down.

How they did it: Redfin analyzed country records in 40 of the most populous metropolitan areas in the U.S., looking at homebuyers who took out a mortgage.

The bottom line: First-time buyers who may not have been able to marshal the cash for a big down payment during the boom now have a shot at getting in the game. That's "one silver lining," as the Redfin report notes.

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