Home has always been “where the heart is,” but the pandemic has placed our homes even more front and center, and now it plays a broader role in our daily activities. It’s no longer just “home” – it’s where many of us work, play, homeschool our kids, and socialize.
The result is a changing view of preferences in where and how we live, and it appears to be influenced by expanded remote work, home schooling, historically low mortgage rates, and still uncertain health and economic outlook, according to a national study of consumers done by realtor.com in partnership with HarrisX.
Here’s a look at their findings.
Home buying is viewed favorably
Despite the impact COVID-19 has had on much of the economy, real estate is thriving, with 55 percent of consumers saying they were more optimistic about buying a home, and 33 percent said it had no impact.
Some categories of respondents were more optimistic than others. Younger respondents – aged 18 – 34 – had a more positive outlook than older consumers, and urban consumers were more optimistic than their suburban or rural counterparts.
Income also affected outlook, with those reporting yearly household incomes over $100,000 having the highest share of optimistic responses. However, the responses remained mostly optimistic even when sliding lower on the income scale, the report concludes.
Timelines stepped up
Forty-one percent of those surveyed expressed plans to buy sooner than initially planned and 44 percent have not changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. More men than women have stepped up the timing, with 46 percent of men responding positively compared with 36 percent of women. This accelerated buying outlook is true for more younger buyers – 47% of those aged 18 to 34; 45% aged 35 to 49; and less than 25% of those 50 years old or more.
And urban buyers and those in higher income brackets have moved up their home buying timeframe.
Price ranges fluctuate
This category has moved in both directions with some buyers shifting toward lower priced homes – 25% – some raised their price range – 38% – while 37% did not change their price range at all.
Factors affecting these decisions include rising unemployment and economic uncertainty, record low mortgage rates, and a desire for larger homes.
Primary reasons for spending more on a home
While the pandemic is influencing some home buying preferences, many preferences track with the past. Buyers who shifted toward higher-priced homes did so primarily for a better neighborhood and a larger home. While men wanted a better neighborhood, women sought more home features. Younger buyers sought larger homes and better neighborhoods, and older buyers sought more home features.
Savings grew while we sheltered at home
The loss to the economy resulted in a gain in consumer savings. A majority of survey respondents indicated that they were able to save more money for a down payment while in quarantine, according to the report.
Acceptance of longer commutes
The desire for quiet neighborhoods, larger homes, and access to the outdoors affected the distance homebuyers are willing to commute to attain these features. Some expected these lifestyle choices to come with no impact on commute times – 52% – while others were more willing to increase the drive – 36%. Perhaps not surprisingly, men and younger consumers were more willing to commute farther than women.
Enduring values persist
While the coronavirus pandemic clearly impacted some consumer preferences, what buyers are looking for in a home illustrates enduring values. For most buyers, price range, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, a renovated kitchen, and a large backyard, along with a garage, are the primary home features which have not changed during the pandemic.
Read the full report at realtor.com/research/home-buying-2020-consumer-preferences-post-covid.
By Tom Kalinski. Tom is the broker/owner of RE/MAX of Boulder, the local residential real estate company he established in 1977. He was inducted into Boulder County’s Business Hall of Fame in 2016 and has a 40-year background in residential and commercial real estate. For questions, e-mail [email protected], call 303.441.5620 or visit boulderco.com.