Jun 1, 2024 - Real Estate

Chicago starter homes turning into forever homes

A line chart that displays the quarterly share of first-time homebuyer mortgage applications from Q1 2021 to Q1 2024. The share starts at 11.56% in Q1 2021, peaks at 27.53% in Q1 2024, with noticeable increases in Q2 2021 and Q2 2022. The chart shows a general upward trend over the period.
Data: Maxwell; Note: Analysis comes from 300+ U.S. lenders; Chart: Axios Visuals

New buyers aren't the only ones frustrated by this market. Homeowners stuck in close quarters are also feeling the squeeze.

Why it matters: With prices and mortgage rates still high, your starter home could become your forever home.

What they're saying: Spencer Walrath is considering expanding his three-bedroom Glenview starter home so there's more room for his two children and visiting family members.

  • "I've dreamed of moving into something bigger and nicer in the next five years, but unless the market changes dramatically, we may decide to build additions," Walrath tells Axios.

Some homeowners are managing cramped spaces by finishing their basement or attic. That's the case for Sitaara Jones, whose family of five is hunkering down in the Orland Park townhome she bought a decade ago.

  • "It's tight, but we can save money, stay in a great school district and still afford to travel when we want to," says Jones, who tells Axios bunk beds also help.

State of play: First-time buyers are making up a growing share of home purchases, while current homeowners stay put.

  • Half of potential sellers are waiting for mortgage rates to come down before they list, according to a recent Realtor.com survey.
  • Roughly one-third have already been thinking of moving for multiple years.

The big picture: More clients are opting to renovate the space they have, instead of upgrading to a larger home, says Shamika Lynch, who designs tiny interiors nationwide.

  • Some are packing multiple functions in each space.

Between the lines: Smaller homes are in demand as households shrink, people have kids later in life and housing costs soar, Axios' April Rubin reports.


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