The three kinds of buyers whose numbers have definitely dropped in the past six months?
Investors, low down payment loans and "jumbo" mortgages -- mortgages of more than $417,000, says Don Vecchiarello, communications manager for Wachovia.
"As the secondary market has died, there is less appetite for people who are purchasing investor properties," says Vecchiarello. Likewise, banks, which often resell their mortgage loans, are finding fewer takers for jumbo loans.
"A few years ago, people were buying things to flip
and sell," says Barbara Alexander, broker/owner of Howard Hanna
Premier Properties in Morgantown, W.Va. "In that, I've seen a slowdown."
And with tightening lending standards, many banks want to see higher down payments.
"We're typically looking" at 20 percent, says Vecchiarello.
Whether it's those more stringent standards or the tightening market or both, lenders are seeing a drop in mortgage applications. "What we're seeing is that there hasn't been as much volume, and I think it's an industry-wide trend," Vecchiarello says.
He doesn't believe that first-timer homebuyers are being impacted disproportionately.
While the mix of buyers is similar, the number of actual buyers is lower, he says.
"There has been a lower volume across the marketplace," says Vecchiarello. But "I think we're seeing a similar percentage of what we always see."
How homebuyers have changed
With more selection and better prices in many areas, sellers and agents have noticed that buyers are getting much more discerning.
"There's more selection now than ever before," says Pat V. Combs, vice president of Coldwell Banker AJS Schmidt and immediate past president of the National Association of Realtors.
Working with one couple recently, she pulled up 200 listings in their price range and areas of choice -- double what might normally be available.
As a result, "we're very selective now in what we're pulling out," she says. "You can't see 200 houses."
One the buyers quickly eliminated: a beautiful home that happened to be pink. With so many other options on the market, the buyers didn't want to bother with paint.
"The seller today has to really be cognizant of the fact that people are eliminating them," and, in many cases, before they even see the home, Combs says.
Kelli Myers, who bought her first home with her husband in January, agrees.
"There's no reason to settle," she says. "It's such a huge investment, you should really try to get what you're looking for."
Some of the major filters for buyers: condition and location.
Two years ago, with a shortage of new homes in the Morgantown, W.Va. area, "everything was selling," says Alexander.
Now, with more properties on the market and more new homes in the area, buyers are demanding homes in top shape. "When the market starts turning, they'll choose condition first," she says.
Buyers are also passing up "almost perfect" or "I could live with this" in favor of searching longer to find the home that will really match their wish list.