Looking at today’s market, I’m so happy about the opportunities that first-time homebuyers are seeing and embracing.  One of my colleagues is a young man in his 30s, and recently bought his first home.  For years, he counted himself out of the home buying equation, or thought that if he did buy a home, he’d be forced to live farther away from the area he truly loves.  But he, along with many other buyers, are taking advantage of the historically low interest rates, the high levels of inventory (which equals a great selection of homes in many areas), and the affordable prices of many properties on today’s market.  Earlier this year, he bought his first place, and now owns a home in the community of his dreams.

The National Association of Realtors tell us that first-time home buyers like my co-worker account for more than 50 percent of today’s  home buying population.  To really understand their thought process, Coldwell Banker decided to survey 300 first-time homebuyers.  We learned something that many of us in the business have probably begun to experience: for today’s buyers, the idea of the “starter home” has really changed.  Most aren’t interested in “fixer-uppers” that require a little TLC.  In fact, 87% of people buying for the first time want move-in ready conditions.  And they realize that with a large inventory, they can be a little choosy.  Most new buyers are looking at 11-15 homes before making a decision (a higher figure than we’ve seen in the past).  And we know that many people are also doing their homework online.  Coldwell Banker has some amazing web tools to help the process, like the Lifestyle Search, On Location and the Affordability Radar.  I had a chance to chat this week with Ashleigh Patterson from Thompson Reuters about all of this, so if you’re interested in more information on the survey, check out her great blog post that breaks down the data.

The opportunities out there aren’t limited to “move-in ready” properties, if you ask me.  With a little investment of time, money and creativity, you may be surprised what new carpet or a coat of paint can do.  My office works with many buyers who “are only interested in foreclosures” – and end up buying a new home…or “move-in ready” families who end up investing in a place they can fix up and personalize over time.  Sellers looking at our data will see that quality and condition of the home matter, and that price may not be the only point of differentiation.  Take distressed properties.  Where I live in Northern California, some banks are wising up to the needs of first-time homebuyers, and investing money in foreclosed properties to clean them up and stage a bit better to appeal to buyers.

This process may seem overwhelming – especially for someone who’s never done it before.  Fortunately, a skilled real estate professional can interpret the needs of a client, and point him or her to the home that fits the bill.   Are you a first-time homebuyer?  What do you dream of in your first home?  Weigh in with a comment!