Analysis of data collected for the Realtors Confidence Index shows the market share of all-cash purchases is on the rise, despite declines in distressed sales and investor activity, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the findings are counterintuitive. “Distressed home sales, most popular with investors who pay cash, have declined notably in the past two years, yet the share of all-cash purchases has risen,” he said. “At the same time, investors have declined as a market share, indicating other changes have been underway in the marketplace.”
Distressed home sales declined from 26% of the national market in 2012 to 17% in 2013 and 15% in the first quarter of this year; NAR projects distressed homes to drop to a single-digit market share by the fourth quarter. All-cash purchases rose from 29% in 2012 to 31% in 2013 and 33% in the first quarter of 2014.
In Florida more than half of all homes were purchased with cash. High levels of all-cash sales also were recorded in Nevada, Arizona and West Virginia, accounting for close to four out of 10 transactions.
The findings, derived from a survey of about 3,000 responses each month for NAR’s Realtors Confidence Index, also show investors edged down from 20% of buyers in 2012 to 19% in both 2013 and the first quarter of this year.
A separate annual study of consumers, NAR’s 2014 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey, shows investors at a somewhat higher market share, but declining more sharply from 24% in 2012 to 20% in 2013.
“These findings beg the question as to why we’re seeing higher shares of cash purchases,” Yun said. “The restrictive mortgage lending standards are a factor, but the higher levels of cash sales may also come from the aging of the baby boom generation, with more trade-down and retirement buyers paying cash with decades of equity accumulation.”
Another study, the 2013 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, shows trade-down buyers rose to 29% of buyers last year from 25% in the 2012 study and 23% in 2011, suggesting a contribution to the trend in cash sales.
“A majority of foreign buyers pay cash as well, and the five-year bull run of the stock market has also provided financial wherewithal among higher wealth households,” Yun said.
In Florida, where more than half of buyers paid cash in 2012 and 2013, distressed home sales declined from nearly four in 10 purchases in 2012 to three in 10 during 2013, and investors edged down.
“Florida is the most popular state for international buyers, who generally pay cash, as well as vacation-home buyers who frequently pay cash. In addition, downsizing retirees are known to pay cash from the proceeds of their homes in the north. This helps to explain the disparity there, but that isn’t the case in most other states,” Yun said.
For example, in West Virginia cash sales rose from about one-third of buyers in 2012 to nearly four out of 10 buyers in 2013, but distressed sales declined from a quarter of the market to less than one in five, and investors were half of what they had been in 2012.
NAR, “The Voice for Real Estate,” represents 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.