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FIRST-TIME BUYERS BUOYED WEAK 1991 HOME BUYING MARKET

 FIRST-TIME BUYERS BUOYED WEAK 1991 HOME BUYING MARKET
 /ADVANCE/CHICAGO, Jan. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- First-time buyers in 1991 accounted for the highest percentage of U.S. home sales in almost a decade, providing a needed boost to a weak housing market, according to the nation's largest title insurance organization.
 Chicago Title & Trust Company's (CT&T) 16th annual survey, entitled "Who's Buying Houses in America," questioned home buyers in 18 representative major housing markets nationwide and revealed that first- time buyers bought 45.1 percent of the 4.3 million housing units sold in 1991. This figure is up from only 41.9 percent last year and the highest percentage since 1976, when the figure was at 44.8 percent. The 4.3 million total housing units sold in 1991 compares with 4.5 million units sold last year.
 "Normally the fixed-rate mortgage interest rate decline from 10 to 8.5 percent during 1991 would be a powerful stimulus to the housing market," said John Pfister, CT&T vice president and market research director, "but a large number of potential repeat buyers -- perhaps feeling vulnerable or more at risk on the job -- elected to ride out the recession on the sidelines."
 Pfister pointed out that, in addition to lower interest rates, the aggressiveness of first-time buyers was fueled by two-income families, who made up 87.8 percent of the first-time buyer population, vs. 83.9 percent last year.
 The 18 markets surveyed include: New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington in the Northeast corridor; Atlanta, Orlando, Fla., Dallas/Fort Worth, and Memphis, Tenn., in the South; Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Minneapolis/St. Paul in the Midwest; and Los Angeles, Orange County, Calif., San Francisco, Seattle-Tacoma, Denver and Phoenix, Ariz., in the West.
 Other findings revealed that buyers in different areas of the country face a totally different set of economic realities:
 -- Nationally, the median home price was $134,300, up 2.4 percent from last year's $131,200. Among markets studied, it was highest in San Francisco -- $250,700 -- and lowest in Memphis, Tenn. -- $85,100.
 -- The average U.S. home price was $171,600, up 6.9 percent from last year's $160,500. Among markets studied, the highest average price was $297,800 in San Francisco; the lowest average price was $98,600 in Memphis.
 -- The lowest average monthly mortgage payment was $762 in Cleveland; the highest monthly payment was $1,742 in Los Angeles.
 -- The mortgage payment as a percentage of household income was highest in New York City -- 42 percent -- and lowest in Cleveland -- 28.9 percent.
 -- The highest percentage increase in monthly mortgage payments was 7.6 percent in Cleveland; the lowest percentage change was -5.3 percent in Seattle-Tacoma.
 -- Media household income was highest in Orange County, Calif. -- $77,900 -- and lowest in Orlando, Fla. -- $46,200.
 According to Pfister, home buyers in 1991 generally got more house for the money than their counterparts the previous year. Despite the 6.9 percent average home price increase nationally, the average monthly mortgage payment for home buyers was up just 1.5 percent over last year to $1,144 as the cost of borrowing declined about 15 percent during the year.
 Meanwhile, the average monthly mortgage payment as a percent of family income was up only fractionally to 34 percent from 33.8 percent last year. Pfister notes the news was even better when looking just at first-time home buyers, who are actually using less of their total income for mortgage payments -- 35.7 percent vs. 36.1 percent a year ago.
 The Chicago Title and Trust Family of Title Insurers is the nation's largest, with annual revenues in excess of $1 billion and more than 5,000 locations. The family includes Ticor Title Insurance Companies, Chicago Title Insurance Company and Security Union Title Insurance Company. Together these companies provide title insurance and related services throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands and Canada.
 -0- 1/20/92
 /CONTACT: Barbara J. Harms, 312-630-2461, or Diane Treuthart, 312-630-2466, both of Chicago Title & Trust Co./ CO: Chicago Title & Trust Co. ST: Illinois IN: SU: ECO


CK -- NY045 -- 1031 01/17/92 13:36 EST
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Date:Jan 17, 1992
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