By Jennifer Riner
Birmingham is one of the nation’s best metropolitan areas for those buying their first home, a national ranking reveals.
Online real estate database Zillow ranked U.S. metropolitan areas to identify financially realistic home markets for first-time buyers.
Because affordability is at the top of the priority list when shopping for a home, the study focused on median home values, share of income dedicated toward housing, for-sale inventory and cash-buyer competition. Birmingham ranked No. 10.
Homeowners in Birmingham spend just 12 percent of their income on mortgages, compared to 26 percent of income on monthly rents. A median home value of $128,000, coupled with an ample supply of homes for sale, puts first-time buyers in the driver’s seat in Birmingham. Compare that to San Francisco, where the median home value is $806,000.
Home shoppers in Birmingham are more likely to find single-family homes in residential neighborhoods, an attraction to millennial buyers. Zillow’s survey on Consumer Housing Trends reveals young people conform to tradition more often than some might think. Half of all millennial homeowners live in the suburbs, while one-third live in the dense urban core. Most U.S. home buyers – millennials included – prefer single-family homes to options like condos or townhomes.
However, millennials do have some preferences that differ from other generations, including their urge to upgrade. They are skipping starter homes and opting for more square footage and amenities on their first purchase. To afford these homes, first-time buyers rent longer than ever while saving up down payments. Because down payments can be steep, a third of national home buyers use gifts of money or loans to cover the upfront costs of their home purchases.
Fortunately, Birmingham buyers may not have to enlist as much help from family and friends. The down payment on a median-priced Birmingham home is just under $25,000, and since renters spend only a quarter of their monthly incomes on housing, saving that initial down payment is less of an obstacle than elsewhere. San Francisco buyers, for instance, would average more than $160,000 for a 20 percent down payment.
Unlike half of all U.S. metro areas where the homeownership rate was flat between 2014 and 2015, Birmingham’s homeownership rate increased 1.4 percent. Plus, Birmingham’s annual employment growth is at 1 percent, demonstrating that affordability and job opportunities can coexist.