National Association of Realtors

A surprisingly high number of first-timers now buying homes

For years, the U.S. housing market looked bleak for young couples hoping to buy their first homes but struggling with high student debt, low pay and meager down-payment savings.

But a new survey by the real estate firm Zillow suggests that first-time buyers may be entering the market in greater numbers than industry watchers had assumed.

Over the past year, the survey found, nearly half of home sales have gone to first-timers. That's a much higher proportion than some other industry estimates had indicated. And it comes as a surprise in part because ownership rates for adults under 34 are at their lowest levels since the government began tracking the figure in 1994.