Despite an improving job market and low interest rates, the share of first-time buyers fell to its lowest point in nearly three decades and is preventing a healthier housing market from reaching its full potential, according to an annual survey released recently by the National Association of REALTORS®.

The survey additionally found that an overwhelming majority of buyers search for homes online and then purchase their home through a real estate agent.

The 2014 National Association of Realtors® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers continues a long-running series of large national NAR surveys evaluating the demographics, preferences, motivations, plans and experiences of recent homebuyers and sellers; the series dates back to 1981. Results are representative of owner-occupants and do not include investors or vacation homes.

The long-term average in this survey, dating back to 1981, shows that four out of 10 purchases are from first-time home buyers. In this year’s survey, the share of first-time buyers dropped 5 percentage points from a year ago to 33 percent, representing the lowest share since 1987 (30 percent).