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Military home buyers purchase at younger ages, buy larger, more expensive homes

Survey evaluates military vs. civilian home buying trends

A survey by the National Association of Realtors showed that the share of young buyers in the military significantly outpaces those under 35 who are not in the military.

The NAR's first-ever survey, entitled "Veterans & Active Military Home Buyers and Sellers Profile," conducted this year, evaluated the differences of recent active-service and veteran home buyers and sellers, compared to those who've never served.

The survey also found that while nearly all veteran and non-military buyers and sellers use a real estate agent, usage is practically universal among active-service military members.

NAR's survey gathered greater insight into how each population of buyers and sellers differs and is similar to those who have never served in the military. Of all home buyers, 18% identified as veterans and three percent as active-military. Of all home sellers, 21% identified as veterans and one percent as active-military.

The results revealed quite a few contrasts between active-service military buyers and buyers who've never served. At a median age of 34 years old, the typical active-service buyer was a lot younger than non-military buyers (40 years old) and was more likely to be married and have multiple children living in their household.

As a result, they typically bought a larger home that cost more than those purchased by both non-military buyers and veterans.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said young active-service buyers (ages 18-35) bought homes at a far greater rate (51%) than non-military buyers (34%).

Despite having a lower median income ($76,800), though with more stable job security, aspiring homeowners in the military still have a deserving advantage over their civilian peers, Yun said.

"Furthermore, their tendencies to marry and raise a family at an earlier age and carry less student debt make buying a home a more desirable and achievable option," Yun added.

Veterans Affairs loans, which offer over 100% financing for veteran and active-service home buyers, were the most popular loan type for active-service and veteran buyers, leading to the majority of active-service buyers financing their entire home purchase and veterans putting down a median down payment of 5%. For non-military buyers, the median down payment was 11%.

Added Yun: "Current data shows that VA loans perform remarkably well and are a safe and affordable choice. Their current seriously delinquent and homes in foreclosure rate is 2.78% versus 3.44% for non-VA loans."

A place to call home is often times one of the few constants for the families of the brave men and women defending our country, said NAR President Tom Salomone, broker-owner of Real Estate II Inc. in Coral Springs, Florida. "That's why it's so important to ensure that home ownership opportunities and affordable financing options exist for qualified military personnel, veterans and their families."

With the ability to obtain a VA loan, only 5% of veterans and 3% of active-service buyers said saving for a down payment was the most difficult step. Of those, only 4% of veterans and 13% of active-service buyers said student loan debt delayed saving.

Some 62% of veterans cited having other types of debt and 43% of active-service military referenced credit card debt.

While a larger share of active-service military buyers had student loan debt compared to non-military buyers and veterans, their debt balances were typically lower. Among active-service members, 37% had student loan debt under $10,000 compared to 21% for those who've never served.

The median income of veteran and active-service member home buyers in the survey was slightly lower than buyers who've never served in the military, which was $86,500. Active-service buyers typically bought a 2,170-square-foot home that cost more ($226,000) than those purchased by non-military buyers and veterans.

Veteran buyers had a median income of $84,000, and they typically bought a 1,980-square-foot home costing $220,000.

Mirroring the general population of buyers, over 80% of both veterans and active-service buyers purchased a single-family home, with those currently serving purchasing single-family homes at the highest rate (87%).

The primary reason for the home purchase for active-service military was job relocation, followed closely by the desire to own a home of their own.

Compared to non-military buyers, veterans were more likely to want to be closer to friends and family or moving for retirement.

Veterans and active-service buyers purchased a home a lot further away from their previous residence (at 75 miles and 28 miles, respectively) than buyers who never served in the military (10 miles). Among the biggest factors influencing neighborhood choice, veterans were most influenced by the quality of the neighborhood, while convenience to their job was desired the most by active-service members.

While nearly all buyers predominantly used the Internet and a real estate agent during their home search, active-duty buyers used a real estate agent at an even higher rate (95% versus 88% for non-military buyers). As a group, they were also most likely to use mobile or tablet search engines and relocation companies during their search.

"Many Realtors are veterans themselves, who understand the unique housing needs of those serving our country," Salomone said.

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