First-time homebuyers made up half of all homebuyers in St. Louis in 2023, according to Zillow. That’s the highest share the city has seen since at least 2017.

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First-time homebuyers, facing the twin challenges of high mortgage rates and low inventory, are finding the most success in St. Louis, according to Zillow.

A new report from the listings search portal found that first-time homebuyers made up half of all homebuyers in the Midwestern city during 2023, the highest share the city has seen since at least 2017.

St. Louis’s deeply affordable housing prices helped boost its popularity among first-time buyers — the median sale price sits at just $178,118 according to Zillow compared to the national median of $324,967. That means 66.7 percent of St. Louis’s listings can be defined as “affordable” according to Zillow’s report.

St. Louis first-time buyers also benefit from relatively low competition, based on age demographics. With Zillow research putting the typical first-time homebuyer in the range of 29 to 43, only about 26 percent of households are within that age range.

Zillow’s second most popular market for first-time buyers — Detroit — similarly scores well on affordability with a median sale price of just $78,983 and a 63.6 percent share of affordable listings. According to Zillow, 57.7 percent of homes sold there are sold under list price.

While they face steep challenges, first-time buyers are doing what it takes to achieve property ownership. Fifty percent of all home sales nationally went to first-time buyers in 2023 according to Zillow’s consumer housing trends report, up from a low of 37 percent in 2021. As rates have stayed high and homeowners continue to enjoy their lower rates, most would-be repeat buyers are staying on the sidelines, creating a market dense with first-time buyers.

“Affording a home is a tough hill to climb, and it’s especially steep for those buying their first home. Headwinds like mortgage rates, low inventory and rising rents are still strong, but easing,” said Zillow Senior Economist Orphe Divounguy.

“The increase in new listings this spring, due both to new construction and to more homeowners choosing to sell, will give buyers more options and help to ease price growth. The housing train is slowing down just enough to give more first-time buyers an opportunity to hop on board.”

Email Ben Verde

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