Buyers Ready to Go Bigger

Post-lockdown homebuyers want bigger homes and more outdoor amenities, and they are willing to pay the (higher) price to get that

BY ANDRA HOPULELE

Up until a few months ago, one of the most desirable types of properties in America’s biggest cities was the open space condo, boasting granite countertops and hardwood floors, and situated as close to downtown as possible. Fast-forward to June, and the priorities of the American homebuyer have shifted significantly.

The pandemic, and especially the lockdown and the social distancing measures taken to contain it translated into some drastic lifestyle and housing changes. From more and better distributed space to the need for more outdoor features, house hunters are now looking for homes that fulfill much different needs.

To discover the characteristics of the 2020 American home seeker so far, real estate platform Point2 examined five months’ worth of search behavior on the website. The breakdown based on home searches before and after lockdown is the most telling, showing significant differences in price ceilings, space needs and home features preferences.

The 2020 American Homebuyer Is a Millennial Female, Looking for a 3-Bed, 2-Bath House in the $200K-$300K Range

Currently, a staggering 76% of buyers are looking for a house, while only 20% would opt for a condo. Fifty-five percent of online home seekers are women, and most buyers are young millennials (25-34 age group), followed closely by home seekers in the 55-64 age bracket, who represent 19.7% of all online house hunters.

When it comes to home size requirements, most home seekers would like a house in the 1,000-2,000 square foot range, and the majority want three bedrooms (41%) and at least two bathrooms (71%).

The home features and amenities that home seekers long for are swimming pools and gardens, which are increasingly used as the main keywords when going through listings. With many homeowners able to work from home and still somehow reluctant to resume their pre-pandemic lifestyle, it is no wonder pools and yards are becoming more and more desirable: these amenities offer homeowners the possibility to get some fresh air and relax outside, while socially distancing at the same time.

Post-Lockdown Changes: Buyers Willing to Pay More for New Housing Needs

According to a 2019 analysis of the most popular keywords and amenities, it was only a few months ago that granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances and hardwood floors were the most in demand home features. Aside from these, many home descriptions included keywords such as “open floor plan,” “open concept” and “seamless transitions,” pointing to a need to integrate and merge spaces, rather than separate different rooms in a home.

The lockdown months, however, have completely changed these priorities and trends. With parents working from home and children doing homework, entire families spend almost all their time together, doing everything from home, and the need for privacy and personal space has become a top priority.

This is obvious when comparing home search behavior in the two timeframes, before (January 1 to March 15) and after lockdown (March 16 to May 31). Houses were the most popular type of property even before the pandemic, with 73% of all home seekers looking for houses for sale rather than condos or land. But currently, that percentage has jumped to 79%.

Searches for 3- and 4-bed homes are going up, and the same is true for properties with three or more bathrooms. Also, searches for properties in the $200K-$300K and $500K-$750K price ranges have gone up, signaling that buyers are willing to pay more for the extra space and amenities.

City Buyers Torn Between Extra Space & Affordability

When zooming in to city level, one interesting distinction appears: post-lockdown buyers are either increasingly looking for three- and four-bedroom homes or, for affordability reasons, they are looking to buy one-bedroom homes.

Another particularity in the case of some cities is that space, although highly desirable, comes second after a much more coveted home feature: floor plan design and efficiency. According to the study, “buyers look for smaller, but better compartmentalized homes, with more bedrooms and bathrooms. […] although affordability considerations forced some home seekers to look for smaller homes, having more bedrooms and especially more bathrooms has become a must.”

Therefore, home seekers might not necessarily aim for maximum square footage, but they do want more rooms, more walls and more privacy.

Andra Hopulele covers the impact of housing issues for Point2. She writes about the financial implications and challenges of homeownership.

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