“I want a longer commute,” said just about nobody ever.
However, today’s record-high home prices have led more homebuyers to sacrifice shorter commutes for larger homes at lower prices farther outside of the big cities, according to a recent Realtor.com® survey. That’s likely because many professionals worked remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic and expect to continue doing so a few days a week going forward. If they’re not coming into the office every day, they’re less likely to mind lengthier commutes.
“The pandemic has certainly led to a reevaluation of priorities for many buyers across the country,” says Realtor.com Senior Economist George Ratiu. “The willingness to live farther away from work is really a combination of affordability, especially in this market, and quality of life.”
The report is based on a survey of more than 1,200 respondents who plan to buy a home within the next 12 months. It was taken in late March and early April of this year. The home search information is based on an analysis of the most frequent keyword searches on Realtor.com from Jan. 1 through May 31, 2021.
The most important home features for buyers are a quiet location, 28%, followed by an updated kitchen, 25%, as well as a garage and large backyard, 24% each. Those looking for homes also value outdoor living areas, 20%, and space for the fur babies (aka pets), 18%.
“Additional square footage, flexible space that can be reconfigured as a family’s needs change, and outdoor living areas have really risen in importance,” says Ratiu.
People are increasingly searching for things like “fenced yards,” “acres,” “front porches,” and garages on Realtor.com. More folks are also looking for “pet-friendly” abodes, which is likely tied to more folks adopting animals during the pandemic.
On the flip side, fewer people cared about short commutes and smaller homes today than before the health crisis. In a nod to the uber-competitive housing market, they were also significantly less likely to search for things like “remodeled” homes, granite countertops, and theater/media rooms. That’s likely because it’s hard enough finding a home at a right price range, winning the bidding war, and having an offer accepted. As a result, many buyers have adjusted their expectations.
The features they’re most willing to forgo include man caves and pools/spas followed by guesthouses, in-law suites, and new construction.
Buyers grappling with the reality of just how tough the housing market is are also willing to make financial sacrifices to win their dream homes. Almost half are ready to provide up to 10% of the asking price. About 28% plan to put more than 20% down when they make offers, and 21% will increase their earnest money deposits. Just a third said they wouldn’t submit a bid over the asking price.
COVID-19 has also led more people to value living closer to extended family members. About a fifth of buyers are seeking to share their homes with members of their extended family, while nearly a third plan to accommodate these family members part time or on visits. Meanwhile, almost a quarter of those hunting for homes plan to move near family.
It’s not clear if the preferences of aspiring homeowners will change as the pandemic winds down, people return to offices, at least part of the week, and the kids are back in school. But buyers who wait may have a bit of an easier time finding a home.
“In the wake of a highly dramatic year, I do see the real estate market normalizing,” says Ratiu. “I expect the number of homes for sale to rise, the extremely heated price growth to slow down, and buyers to catch a break.”