Lifestyle adjustments from COVID-19 will change homebuyer preferences

by Kasey Chronis

Jessica Lautz, Vice President of Demographics and Behavioral Insights for the National Association of Realtors

As millions of people across the country approach nearly two months of living under stay-at-home orders to protect against the coronavirus pandemic, many are planning big life changes once the prohibitions on public places are lifted.

And those changes are likely to have a lasting effect on the real estate market, according to Jessica Lautz, the Vice President of Demographics and Behavioral Insights for the National Association of Realtors.

Lautz appeared on “Zoomed in on Real Estate”, an internet talk show produced by Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors, and told CCIAOR CEO Ryan Castle that she is beginning to see major shifts in buyer preferences in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“If you’re in a place you didn’t want to be before, you certainly won’t want to be there now, so there will be some movement after this,” she said.

What does that mean for real estate in Boston and Cape Cod?

Lautz said buyers already are looking more closely at small towns over urban epicenters as telecommuting becomes more common. Many buyers now want a small-town place where they can feel they are in a less dense area, she said. “So, I do think places like the Cape could absolutely see growth,” Lautz added.

She’s already hearing anecdotally from agents in the Seattle area and along the West Coast that smaller cities in the region like Boise, Idaho are becoming increasingly attractive. Virtual home tours and virtual tours of neighborhoods are among the new tools that are helping to facilitate the interest, Lautz said.

Co-buying outside of wedlock and a preference for living near family are also growing trends, Lautz said.

NAR studies show that more unmarried couples are purchasing property as roommates, Lautz said, noting that roommate home purchases jumped from 2% to 4% last year. “I think we will continue to see this rise,” she said.

NAR also is seeing a greater desire from millennial homebuyers to be near friends and family. This is a departure from their Gen X counterparts, Lautz said. “It’s as important to [millennials] as it is to seniors,” Lautz said.

She noted that the method for shopping for homes is also changing under the coronavirus lockdown. Historically, only about 3.5% of buyers purchase a home without having seen it in person. A survey taken last week showed that about a quarter of buyers are making home purchases without ever having stepped foot in the house. “Those are really high numbers,” she said.

They’re also buying faster, she added, noting that a couple of years ago, your typical buyer would look at a dozen houses before making a purchase. That dropped to nine in 2019. Currently the average is three, she said.

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