Survey: California Homebuyers Say Neighborhood Safety Is Top Concern, Followed by Walkability, Schools

Neighborhood safety is the most important factor in choosing a new home, according to a new survey of California homebuyers. Other top concerns include walkability and quality of schools.Homes clustered in San Francisco's Bernal Heightds neighborhood.

The survey of more than 1,200 recent buyers, conducted February through April by the California Association of Realtors, found that safety earned a rating of 8.5 on a scale of one to 10, where 10 is most important, for factors affecting the choice of neighborhood where a home was purchased.

Walkability was rated 6.5 on the neighborhood scale, followed by quality of schools (6.1), entertainment and cultural activities nearby (5.9), short commute to work (5.6), and great restaurants (5.5).

The survey also found that 85 percent of buyers believe their home is worth the price they paid for it.

Overall, 75 percent were satisfied with their purchase, while 13 percent said their new home wasn’t entirely ideal — it was the best one available amid a limited supply in a desired neighborhood. Another 12 percent said they bought the best home in an affordable neighborhood.

Buyers also reported significantly fewer troubles obtaining a home loan. Difficulty with financing was rated 4.1 on a 10-point scale in 2015, down from 7.1 in 2014 and 8.6 in 2013.

Real estate professionals assisted more than 90 percent of California homebuyers, according to the survey, and their efforts were welcomed. Overall satisfaction with real estate professionals was rated 4.4 on a five-point scale in 2015, the highest rating in 10 years.

In fact, 85 percent of buyers in 2015 said they would work with the same real estate professional again — another decade-high score.

When buyers were asked in which part of the transaction they needed the most assistance, 43 percent said negotiating the terms of sale or the price, while 22 percent said finding the right home, and 15 percent said paperwork, followed by determining affordability (12 percent), and researching comparable homes to ascertain fair market value (11 percent).

When asked what they would change about the home-buying experience, 14 percent of buyers said they would like to have a better understanding of the real estate market. Another 9.1 percent said they wished the process was faster and easier, followed by additional assistance with mortgage approval (7.5 percent).

Other results from the homebuyer survey:

  • Single-family homes accounted for 87 percent of all purchases; condominiums and townhouses claimed the remaining 13 percent.
  • The top five reasons for buying: Tired of renting (15 percent), needed a place to live (14 percent), desired a larger home (12 percent), changed jobs or relocated (11 percent), desired a better location (8.4 percent).
  • A majority of buyers (55 percent) found their home through a real estate professional, followed by a website (18 percent), a for-sale sign (11 percent), and an open house (8.5 percent).
  • Nearly one-quarter of buyers (23 percent) paid cash for their homes; the rest obtained financing.
  • Among cash buyers, 40 percent paid with personal savings, 28 percent used proceeds from a previous home sale, 18 percent used proceeds from the sale or refinancing of another property, 17 percent borrowed money or received it as a gift, 13 percent used the sale of personal assets, and 12 percent used an inheritance.
  • Most buyers obtained fixed-rate loans (83 percent), with 75 percent of those loans on the books for 30 years.
  • The median age of buyers in 2015: 44, down from 46 in 2014 but higher than the median age in the previous 12 years, which ranged from 35 to 41.

(Photo: Flickr/James Gaither)

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