The COVID-19 pandemic has helped to alter what some homebuyers’ choices are, both in location and features, according to a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors®.
NAR’s 2020 Market Recovery Survey polled agents about their respective residential real estate markets. Twenty-four percent of Realtors® indicated having buyers who shifted the location of where they intend to buy a house due to the coronavirus. Among those who noted having buyers change their intended location, 47% stated that their buyers prefer to purchase housing in the suburbs, 39% cited rural areas and 25% cited smaller town markets.
Dr. Jessica Lautz, NAR’s vice president of Demographics and Behavioral Insights, said, “There is a big shift for many buyers, they want a door to their own home; they want to have their own yard and they want to grow their own vegetables. Markets like rural Pennsylvania are seeing an influx of buyers interested in relocating to a less populated area.”
Thirty-five percent of NAR members surveyed said buyers have modified at least one home feature that is important to them because of the coronavirus outbreak. The most common home features cited as increasingly important are home offices, spaces to accommodate family members new to the residence – older adult relatives, newborns or new pets – larger homes with more personal space and bigger yards that would allow for growing foods.
“Having at least one home office has become much more important since more people are working from home,” Lautz added.
Also, in response to the pandemic, 13% said that homebuyers changed their home type of choice from multi-family to single-family. This shift is highest in urban markets at 16%. Thirty-three percent answered that buyers have adjusted commuting needs since the pandemic began, with 22% less concerned with their commute and 7% wanting to live close to bike trails that connect them to work. Just 5% responded that they now have a greater concern about parking and more concern for a location that affords the ability to drive to work.
The top reason for selling has changed as well. “More people are selling to be closer to family and friends,” Lautz reported. “Younger millennials’ reason for buying is to be closer to friends and family.”
The recent survey also finds that first-time homebuyers will be impacted by tightening financial requirements requiring larger down payments. “We’ve found that one-third of first-time buyers have received financial help from their family,” Lautz said.
The industry is also seeing a shift in the time owners are staying in their homes. “Tenure in homes has increased to 10 years, up from seven years in 1987,” she added.
“Home is more important than ever before, and ownership has become a key priority for many, particularly those who have never bought a home before,” said D. Steve Boland, president of retail at Bank of America. “Owning a home has historically helped families create a legacy and enabled them to build long-term wealth.”