It's easier to get a mortgage but harder to find a home: Realtors

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Recent home buyers found it easier getting a mortgage compared with last year's purchasers, but first-timers are being held back by a lack of inventory and student debt, according to a National Association of Realtors survey.

Among all buyers, 34% said that getting a mortgage was somewhat more or much more difficult than expected in the past 12 months, down three percentage points from the 2016 survey. On the other hand, 46% said it was not difficult or no more difficult than expected to get a mortgage, while 20% responded it was easier than expected.

But for first-time home buyers, 26% said it was somewhat more difficult to get a mortgage than expected, while an additional 11% said it was much more difficult.

Over four-in-10 first-time buyers and 19% of repeat buyers had student loan debt. The median amount for first-time buyers was $29,000, while for repeat buyers it was $24,000.

Conventional financing was used in 58% of all home purchase transactions, including 65% for repeat buyers and 46% for first-timers. Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgages were used in 34% of first-time buyers' purchases, while Veterans Affairs-guaranteed loans were used in 11%.

The median down payment for all buyers was 10%, which has been consistent among the past five surveys. For first-time buyers, the median down payment slipped to 5% from 6% last year. For repeat buyers, the median increased from 11% to 14%.

Repeat buyers benefited from higher home prices for the property they sold allowing them to put down a larger down payment, NAR said. But those same rising prices caused first-time buyers to put less money down.

Savings was the source for 78% of the first-time buyers' down payments, compared with 50% for repeat buyers. For almost one-third of the first-time buyers it took two years or more to save for their down payment but 29% responded that they only had to save for six months or less.

"With the lower end of the market seeing the worst of the supply crunch, house hunters faced mounting odds in finding their first home," NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said in a press release. "Multiple offers were a common occurrence, investors paying in cash had the upper hand, and prices kept climbing, which yanked homeownership out of reach for countless would-be buyers."

"Solid economic conditions and millennials in their prime buying years should be translating to a lot more sales to first-timers, but the unfortunate reality is that the nation's homeownership rate will remain suppressed until entry-level supply conditions increase enough to improve overall affordability," he added.

NAR surveyed 145,800 people who purchased a home between July 2016 and June 2017 for this survey.

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