Full House: Pandemic buyers want room for multi-generations

It’s only been eight months, but the coronavirus pandemic has already drastically altered homebuyer behavior and choices, according to a new report from the National Association of Realtors.

Among the findings in NAR’s recent Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers report, buyers who completed their transaction after the pandemic began in March were more likely to purchase a multi-generational home.

The U.S. Census Bureau defines multigenerational families as those consisting of more than two generations living under the same roof. Many researchers also include households with a grandparent and at least one other generation.

Multigenerational home purchases accounted for 15% of sales after March, versus 11% before.

In addition, buyers who purchased after March (when the pandemic began) were more likely to relocate to the suburbs and were more likely to pay more for that home – regardless of its location – paying an average of $339,400 compared to $270,000 for those who purchased before April.

Not surprisingly, this group also had higher household incomes – $100,800 compared to $94,400 for pre-pandemic buyers.

Among NAR’s findings, those who bought a home during the pandemic are expected to remain there for 10 years. That is compared to 15 years for those who purchased prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The coronavirus without a doubt led home buyers to reassess their housing situations and even reconsider home sizes and destinations,” said NAR Vice President of Demographics and Behavioral Insights Jessica Lautz in the report.

“Buyers sought housing with more rooms, more square footage and more yard space, as they may have desired a home office or home gym,” she added. “They also shopped for larger homes because extra space would allow households to better accommodate older adult relatives or young adults that are now living within the residence.”

The survey also evaluated seller behavior prior to and after the pandemic began.

Like buyers, pandemic sellers cited a desire to be close to family and friends as the top reason to sell, especially among those moving large distances.

Another takeaway was the sense of urgency sellers were feeling. Owners who sold in 2020 were more likely to say that their need to sell was “at least somewhat urgent.” Those who closed in April or later were more likely to sell because their home was too small – 18% compared to 13% of those before April.

“So many sellers were eager to get out of their old home and move to something bigger that would better meet their needs during quarantine,” Lautz said.

With lockdowns in place, sellers who sold after March were more likely to use technology as a marketing tool. They were also more likely to use virtual tours — 27% after March compared to 16% pre-pandemic.  

Pandemic buyers turned to technology as well: 97% of pandemic buyers searched for their homes online, up from 93% a year ago. The time spent looking for a home declined to eight weeks from 10, the shortest search since 2007.

“Some buyers purchased their homes before ever physically seeing them in person,” said Lautz. “They researched, viewed photos online and did virtual tours from their computers and phones, and ultimately made an offer through their agent.”

According to the report, 88% percent of pandemic buyers reported using an agent to purchase their home, a near historical high. More than half of buyers found their agent through a referral or said they had used the agent in the past.

“We are all in unknown territory with this pandemic, so it’s no surprise that more buyers than ever turned to agents to help them navigate through some of the uncertainties and one of the most complex, competitive markets any of us have ever seen,” said NAR President Vince Malta in the report.

More than 40% of Americans hesitant to move to areas where they’d be in the political minority

With the election upon us and amid an increasingly politically polarized country, a new study conducted by technology brokerage Redfin shows that an increasing number of Americans are letting their politics determine where they want to live.

According to the survey, which polled more than 3,000 U.S. residents in October, 42% of respondents would be hesitant to move to an area where most people have political views different from their own, up from 32% in June. That’s the highest share since 2017, when Redfin began posing this question to survey respondents.

The share of people who are hesitant to relocate to an area where they’d be in the racial, ethnic or religious minority also increased, from 20% in June up to 28%.

“With political signs lining the front yards of homes across America, house hunters can’t escape the political views of their prospective neighbors,” said Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather in the report.

When broken down by who respondents intend to vote for in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump voters and Joe Biden voters were equally as likely to express skepticism about moving to a place where they’d be in the political minority. Forty-five percent of participants who indicated that they plan to vote for Biden and 45% of participants who indicated that they plan to vote for Trump said that they would be hesitant to move to a place where most residents have different political views.

Trump voters were most likely to express concerns about relocating to an area where a majority of people look or pray differently. A third (36%) of survey participants who indicated that they plan to vote for Trump said that they would be hesitant to move to a place where most residents are of a different race, ethnicity or religion.

About a quarter (23%) of participants who indicated that they plan to vote for Biden felt the same way.

When broken down by race, 29% of white respondents said they would be hesitant to move to a place where most residents are of a different race, ethnicity or religion. That compares with 26% of both Black and Hispanic respondents, and 23% of Asian participants.

Meanwhile, in another recent survey conducted by Redfin, 16% of Americans said they would consider leaving the country if the presidential candidate they support loses the election. That’s up from 9% of Americans who said the same thing in 2016.

Broken down by political preferences, 20% of people who plan to vote for Joe Biden would consider leaving the country if he loses, while 15% of President Trump’s supporters said the same thing. 

“The desire to leave the country due to political dissatisfaction is relatable for people on both sides of the aisle, but most people who say they would consider it likely won’t follow through given the financial and legal barriers,” Fairweather said in the report. “Still, the uptick in the share of people who say they would consider leaving the country since the 2016 election is one sign that the nation has become more politically divided.”

Twenty-four percent of respondents in that study also said they would want to move to a different state if the Supreme Court increases states’ rights with respect to health care, reproductive laws, gun laws, etc.

Nearly 40% of Trump voters who live in blue states said they would likely move if the Supreme Court were to increase states’ rights while 24% of Biden voters who live in red states felt the same way.

An increase in states’ rights could make choosing which state to live in more significant because the laws from state to state would differ more than they do now, the report noted.

“Homebuyers could ‘vote with their feet’ and relocate out of a state if their laws change in a way that is misaligned with their values,” Fairweather said. “Businesses may also move for the same reason, or to follow the talent, which would impact local economies.”

Politics aside, the pandemic is already driving migration, as remote work has given many Americans the freedom to relocate.

According to Redfin, nearly 29% of users were looking to move to another metro area in July and August, the highest share since the company began tracking migration patterns.