Parking preferences shifting due to COVID-19?

by Timothy Inklebarger

Parking preferences shifting due to COVID-19?

Correlation doesn’t always mean causation — they’re words of wisdom for any statistician to remember.

So what does it mean when searches for apartments with parking are down 30% in one city but up 13% in another?

It’s hard to say, but recent statistics from apartment-finder website Zumper, released at the request to Chicago Agent magazine, show a 20% drop in parking-related searches in Chicago between the first two months of 2020 and the following next two months. Similarly, Atlanta and Miami experienced a 30% decline over that same period of time.

The continued drop in parking-related searches in Chicago might not come as a surprise to Ted Guarnero of Seventy7 Group at Fulton Grace Realty. He said in an email that parking spaces have been devalued over the last several years due, in part, to the popularity of ride-share services.

“Years ago, you would never think about buying a home without a parking spot, but today, a lot of the people who are selling those homes with parking are starting to have to package the parking in with the home price,” Guarnero said, adding that high-ticket parking spots are a turnoff for many buyers these days.

Prior to this trend of packaging parking pricing in with the cost of the home, it was common to see listings with an additional $30,000 for parking in some areas, he said.

“Now, because it’s getting more difficult finding a buyer who has a car, they’re pushing the price up slightly and including the parking,” Guarnero said.

Meanwhile, Zumper found that searches in other major metropolitan areas like Boston and Houston found searches for apartments with parking up 13% and 23%, respectively, over the same time period.

While its not completely clear why parking preferences appear to be shifting, it’s certainly driven in part by public transportation ridership drying up in cities across the country since stay-at-home orders were enacted.

A story in the Chicago Sun-Times in late May noted that ridership on the CTA had dropped 80%, while Pace ridership is down 70%. Metra lost practically all of its passengers with its post-COVID-19 decline of 97%. However, the article noted that those figures are beginning to rebound as businesses reopen.

While the transportation trend could be temporary due to the pandemic, one study suggests that a move toward vehicle ownership could stick around for the foreseeable future.

A recent study by automobile consultant Capgemini suggests that the trend toward automobile ownership is global in scale. A Detroit Free Press analysis of the survey findings in early May quoted Daniel Davenport of Capgemini’s North America auto sector saying there is a “seismic shift” in car ownership preferences among those under the age of 34.

Thirty-five percent of those surveyed (11,000 respondents from 11 countries) at all ages said they were considering buying a car. Those under 35 were even more interested considering buying a car (45%), and more than half of those would be first-time car owners.

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