Pandemic Homebuyers Are Happy With Their Homes

Pandemic Homebuyers Are Happy With Their Homes

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  • One-in-four recent homeowners purchased because of the pandemic
  • Majority of recent buyers bid at or above asking price
  • 70% of recent homebuyers feel good about purchasing decision
  • 75% of recent homebuyers are happy with their homes
  • Over 70% of recent homebuyers are happy with their communities and neighborhoods
  • Three-in-four recent buyers bought a home that fits their needs
  • Over half of recent buyers found homes suited for remote work

The past year has seen a noticeable seesaw in real estate activity, as markets traversed the challenges of the COVID pandemic. Housing started 2020 with a significant shortage of new homes and inventory of existing ones. As 4.7 million millennials turned 30 and embraced homeownership, the demand for homes was driving prices higher at a healthy clip. The mid-March 2020 quarantines put a stop to most transactions, leading to a sharp drop in activity until June. As the lockdowns were lifted, Americans reacted to the trifecta of social distancing, remote work, and dropping mortgage rates by rushing out of downtowns and into suburbs, as well as smaller cities and towns across the country. People focused on communities with higher quality of life, larger homes and more affordable cost of living.

As demand kept rising, sellers remained either cautious about the market’s outlook, or in many cases, unable to find a replacement home. The trends accelerated into 2021, pushing prices up at double-digit rates for over 10 months. This period, leading up to May of this year, was characterized by a very competitive market, where bidding wars became common in markets large and small. First-time buyers were competing with repeat buyers, small investors, as well as well-capitalized, large investment firms. The time from listing to closing compressed noticeably, and many buyers were put in the uncomfortable position to bid over asking, include price escalation clauses, waive contingencies, and for some, make offers sight-unseen. Many first-time buyers found themselves losing bid after bid, while the time spent looking became longer and longer.

Given this frenzied environment, and the myriad challenges buyers faced during the pandemic, partnered with HarrisX in March and April of 2021 to survey recent homeowners, who purchased their homes in the prior 12 months, and find out how they felt about their experiences. The results paint a pleasantly surprising picture, where a majority of homebuyers are happy with the homes bought during the pandemic, and satisfied with their property and neighborhood choices.

One in Four Recent Homeowners Purchased Because of the Pandemic

The pandemic-induced government quarantines of 2020 clearly impacted most Americans’ plans, including moving. The rebound in activity during the second half of last year and into 2021 was partly in response to the re-opening of business activity. For most homebuyers, purchasing a home was part of a longer term plan. The survey highlights that fact, with 75% of respondents saying that they were planning to buy a home before the pandemic started. However, the data also highlight that 25% of recent homeowners bought their properties because of the pandemic. - Recent Homebuyers GRAPH: Pandemic-Induced Home Purchase

Interestingly, the share of buyers who bought due to the pandemic was much higher for millennials and Gen Zers. Fewer comparative Gen Xers, Baby Boomers or Silent generation homeowners responded to the pandemic by buying. Stage of life could also be a contributor to this decision, as the pandemic likely accelerated decisions for younger buyers who experienced growing families and found themselves in need of more space. Geographically, the Northeast and West regions showed higher shares of buyers who purchased as a result of the pandemic.

Majority of Recent Buyers Bid at or Above Asking Price

Reflecting a very competitive market with insufficient inventory and rising prices, close to 70% of recent homebuyers reported bidding at or above the asking price. Just about one-in-three buyers bid below the asking price when they purchased their home. Interestingly, 8% of buyers bid more than $100,000 above the property price. While this noticeable premium may represent a small increase in a market like Manhattan or San Jose, it would be a significant jump for a listing in Nashville or Raleigh. - Recent Homebuyers GRAPH: Purchase vs Asking Price

Looking across generations, younger buyers found themselves competing for more affordable homes by having to bid above asking, with Gen Zers posting the highest share, at 75%, followed by Millennials and Gen Xers, at 72% each, respectively. Larger shares of younger buyers also put offers on homes with much higher premiums over asking. Not surprisingly, a larger share of buyers in the West region made offers above asking, as did those in the Northeast. - Recent Homebuyers GRAPH: Purchase vs Asking Price by Demographics

Low Mortgage Rates and Rising Prices Pushed Buyers to Stretch Budgets

The period of June 2020 through January 2021 saw mortgage rates on a downward trajectory, breaking record lows month after month, as health and economic concerns, in addition to monetary easing, led investors toward the safety of bonds. For buyers, interest rates well-below 3.0% translated into much higher purchasing power, with many buyers being pleasantly surprised to learn how much more they could afford. Even so, due to the prevalence of bidding wars, homebuyers found themselves stretching far beyond their original budgets. - Recent Homebuyers GRAPH: Purchase Price vs Max Original Home Budget

While 61% of recent homeowners stayed either on budget or below when buying their homes, close to 40% went over their original budgets. This case was more prevalent for millennials, 50% of whom exceeded their initial budgets to secure a home. A little over 40% of Gen Z homeowners also ended up spending more than they initially planned. In comparison, only 24% of Baby Boomers and 20% of Silent generation homeowners went above their original budgets. Geographically, larger shares of recent homeowners in the Northeast and West outspent their planned amount, likely due to much higher prices in those markets. - Recent Homebuyers GRAPH: Purchase Price vs Max Original Home Budget

Majority of Recent Homebuyers Feel Good About Purchasing Decision

Looking back at their buying experiences amid the pandemic, over 70% of recent homeowners feel that they made a good decision. Even with a longer and more challenging process—over 40% of first-time buyers spent over a year planning to buy a home—buyers across most generational cohorts felt positive about their buying decision, with over 70% of millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers selecting the response. The share of those who felt good about their choices was equally elevated across all major geographic regions. - Recent Homebuyers GRAPH: Feelings About Pandemic Home Purchase

About Three Quarters of Recent Homebuyers Are Happy With Their Homes

The pandemic turned into a catalyst for many Americans this past year, causing them to re-evaluate their priorities, options and preferences. In light of the new reality, many realized that their existing living arrangements were no longer suitable. In turn, real estate preferences changed for many people. Larger homes, bigger backyards, garages, greener neighborhoods and amenities took center stage during the home buying process.

Perhaps not surprisingly, having shifted their focus during the search, the majority of recent homeowners reported being happy with their newly-purchased homes. The share of those reporting overall happiness with their home exceeded 70% for all generations, except Gen Z, who came in at 59%. A larger percentage of buyers in the Midwest reported being happy with their homes, even as the shares for all regions in this group hit 69% or higher. - Recent Homebuyers GRAPH: Happiness with Home

Over 70% of Recent Homebuyers Are Happy With Their Communities and Neighborhoods

We asked Americans who bought their homes in the last 12 months how they felt about their chosen communities and neighborhoods, especially given the social distancing limitations brought about by the pandemic. Overwhelmingly, the majority found that the community that they moved to was a good fit for them. This was especially true for millennials and older buyers, and those in the Midwest and South. Even while showing a lower share, over half of Gen Z buyers felt their communities were a good fit. - Recent Homebuyers GRAPH: New Community is a Good Fit

Similarly, 73% of recent homeowners are happy with their chosen neighborhood. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers posted the highest shares of respondents who enjoyed their immediate surroundings, at 82% and 81%, respectively. - Recent Homebuyers GRAPH: Happiness with Neighborhood

Three-in-Four Recent Buyers Bought a Home that Fits Their Needs

The common refrain heard in real estate markets this past year centered on the shortage of available homes for sale. With few choices and high prices, many buyers may have found themselves frustrated by some of the compromises they had to make. And yet, 75% of recent buyers said that their recently-purchased home meets their needs. Of the remainder, 17% were unsure, and only 8% considered that the home they bought was not well-suited for their needs. - Recent Homebuyers GRAPH: Home Meets My Needs

Demographically, age played a factor in how satisfied homeowners felt, with larger shares of older generations feeling that their homes were well-suited. Close to 85% of Baby Boomers and Silent generation buyers found a house matched to their needs. In comparison, 54% of Gen Z buyers reported the same opinion. Geographically, the four regions were fairly close, with the majority of buyers reporting a good fit between their needs and homes.

Over Half of Recent Buyers Found Homes Suited for Remote Work

This past year pushed several trends into overdrive, and none so dramatically as remote work. For a large proportion of Americans, the switch from an office or job site to remote work happened practically overnight, as governments instituted quarantines. What was initially expected to be a 3-month temporary situation, turned into a reality that stretched longer than a year. In addition, for many parents with school-age children, the year posed additional challenges as many schools resorted to fully virtual teaching methods. Juggling their work meetings and the children’s virtual classrooms became a challenging balancing act for most parents.

For people working and schooling from home, smart home features and newer technology rose in prominence. Topping the list of desirable amenities was fast wi-fi network connection, followed by a dedicated workstation setup, with large monitors, high-definition camera, headset, adjustable keyboard and ergonomic chair. These features were even more important for younger respondents (18-34 group), and for parents of minor children.

And while we are seeing schools plan for in-classroom teaching in the fall of 2021, and companies begin to explore a return to a new office reality, many organizations have either resorted to a 100% remote work environment, or a long-term hybrid approach, which entails some in-office days combined with work-from-home time. In turn, communities that offer better quality of life, affordability, and relative proximity to large employment centers are among the hottest in this year’s rankings.

For homebuyers, the new-found ability to work from home provided more freedom to expand their geographic boundaries in search of larger and more affordable homes. Many buyers living in high-density coastal metros pushed farther out from the 30-60 minute commute circle that tended to define home searched pre-pandemic. While commutes have gotten longer over the last 10 years, this past year has seen buyers willing to buy homes in communities up to 2 hours or longer away from downtowns.

When we asked recent homeowners how they felt about their home’s suitability for working or schooling from home, 55% agreed that their new homes were exactly what they needed to meet the challenges. Millennials and Gen Xers had the highest comparative shares of those who matched their remote work and school needs with their homes. The shares were fairly similar across geographies, as well. - Recent Homebuyers GRAPH: Home Fits Remote Work & Schooling

Close to Half of Recent Homeowners Wish They Had Moved Sooner

Even amid a challenging period on all fronts of daily life, 45% of recent homeowners agreed that they wish they had moved sooner. Surprisingly, millennials had the highest share of respondents who indicated that, at 51%, followed by buyers in the Silent and Gen X generations. The responses add to the indicators that serve to illustrate how successfully millennials confounded a decade’s worth of myth-making tied to their expected propensity to shun home buying. Only 19% of recent homeowners indicated that they wished they had waited to move, a figure which held fairly consistent across demographic cohorts and geography. - Recent Homebuyers GRAPH: I Wish I Had Moved Sooner

Recent Homebuyers Do Not Regret Their Purchasing Decisions

We asked buyers who purchased their homes this past year if they felt rushed when making their decisions, or if they felt that they should have spent more time looking at homes and neighborhoods. Given the speed with which quarantines and remote work policies went into effect, for many Americans decisions came at a much faster pace this past year. While the answers were more nuanced than those in the questions above, a significant share do not regret their home purchases.

Almost half of respondents did not feel that they rushed their decision to move. In addition, 25% were unsure, while 27% did feel that they rushed into the home buying decision. Interestingly, millennials and Gen X respondents who felt they rushed showed higher comparative shares. Gen Z buyers had a higher share of unsure respondents. Meanwhile, Baby Boom and Silent generation buyers posted the highest shares of those who did not feel rushed in their choices. - Recent Homebuyers GRAPH: I Feel I Rushed to Move

Similarly, 41% of recent buyers did not wish they had spent more time exploring other homes prior to their purchases. However, the feeling on this topic was more clearly split along generational lines. The shares of Gen X, Baby Boomer and Silent homebuyers who felt satisfied with the homes they explored before settling on their current one outweighed those of Gen Z and millennials. In fact, the shares of millennials were equally split (39%) between those who would have wanted to see more home and those who were content. Meanwhile, a larger share of Gen Z buyers wished they had spent more time looking at homes prior to buying their current one—33% versus 30% who were content with their inventory selection. Buyers in the Midwest also had higher shares of those feeling content with their choice of home. - Recent Homebuyers GRAPH: I Wish I Had Looked More Before Buying

We also asked people who bought their homes in the past year if they wish they spent more time exploring neighborhoods in their communities before buying. Only 29% reported wishing they had taken more time. An additional 29% were unsure, while 42% seemed content with the amount of time they took to visit neighborhoods before settling on the current one. Responses seemed to reflect different experiences across generational cohorts, with larger shares of older buyers feeling confident with the time they spent looking at neighborhoods, compared with younger buyers. The figures held in similar ranges across geographic regions. - Recent Homebuyers GRAPH: I Wish I Had Explored More Neighborhoods


The COVID pandemic spurred unprecedented responses across the United States, which reverberated deeply within our collective lives. Our personal, family, health, social, and professional routines were disrupted for over a year. Most of us spent more time at home during the pandemic than ever before. Not surprisingly, that changed what many of us wanted from our homes and neighborhoods, and created a greater sense of urgency to find a home that satisfied these needs.

With the number of available homes for sale in short supply, buyers did not have as many choices over the past year, or a lot of time to consider their options in a very competitive market. However, as our survey shows, pandemic buyers generally feel good about the choices they made, and while the home buying process itself remains stressful, new homeowners feel their new homes meet their needs and do not regret the choices they made.

Looking forward, it is obvious that real estate markets are in a significant need of new homes to address the tremendous demographic tailwind. We are entering peak home-buying years for the largest generation in this country’s history. We were underbuilt in most markets before the pandemic, and the quarantines and subsequent jumps in lumber and construction costs have only intensified the gap. It is impossible to overcome a decade’s worth of housing deficit in one or two years. However, affordable housing is key to sustainable and continued economic growth. The solutions depend on municipalities revisiting zoning restrictions to encourage construction, building companies seeking technologies that lower the cost of production, and policy makers assessing new and existing frameworks which may encourage development.® commissioned HarrisX to conduct a national survey of consumers. This survey was conducted online within the United States from March 26 – April 7, 2021. The survey was conducted among 3,998 adults by HarrisX. The sampling margin of error of this poll is plus or minus 1.6 percentage points. The results reflect a nationally representative sample of adults. Results were weighted for age, gender, region, race/ethnicity, and income where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population. In addition to the general population, an oversample was collected for new homeowners. The oversample was weighted to align with the original sample. There are 1,000 new owners who bought a home in the last 12 months with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.


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