New survey estimates post-COVID housing demand to be 2.1 million

by Kerrie Kennedy

As lockdowns end and life returns to the ‘new normal,’ fresh data is emerging that shows a paradigm shift in the way Americans view and value their homes.

The America at Home Study shows that as a direct result of COVID-19, not only is homebuying at the front of consumers’ minds, buyer demand is much stronger than analysts had previously anticipated.

The survey, conducted April 23-30, polled 3,000 U.S. adults between the ages of 25 to 74 with an annual household income of $50,000 or more, revealed a potential new housing demand of 2.1 million households in the U.S. across all age groups, led by millennials.

The report also showed that the pandemic hasn’t affected the majority of buyers’ timelines. While 42% of respondents said they plan to stay in their homes longer, more than half said they have no change in plans, meaning if they were planning to move, those plans are still intact.

Unlike the Great Recession, when nearly 10 million U.S. homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure sales, the COVID-19 recession is expected to turn renters into owners. Nearly half of respondents said the pandemic has made them more inclined to buy a home, which equates to a potential housing demand of approximately 7.4 million households.

Developed by three women leaders in the homebuilding industry — marketing expert Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki, market and consumer researcher Belinda Sward, and architect Nancy Keenan — the study offers hard data about how Americans want to live and how they feel about the concept of home after being quarantined.

“I grew frustrated that nobody was asking or talking about what this meant for Americans,” said Slavik-Tsuyuki, principal at tst ink LLC. “The majority of the nation was sheltering in place, and the information shared by analysts was largely opinion. No one was asking consumers about their stark homebound realities and what it would mean for home and community design in the future.”

More than 70% of both homeowners and renters surveyed said they preferred a single-family detached home. Beyond that, when asked what “home” meant as a result of COVID-19, respondents overwhelmingly identified three top terms: a safe place (91%), comfort (85%) and family (84%).

“The America at Home Study indicates both an increase in new home demand and new deciding factors for home shoppers,” said Sward, founder and chief strategist at Strategic Solutions Alliance. “By putting this data to work, builders, developers, architects and more will gain a competitive advantage by designing and building what today’s residents want.”

And what buyers want are germ-resistant countertops and flooring (55%), greater technology and energy efficiency (55%), and more storage for food and water (51%).

“The results of the America at Home Survey are clear: People don’t want to go back to ‘business as usual’ or ‘normal.’ The pandemic has brought forth a deep desire for change,” said Keenan, CEO of DAHLIN Architecture and Planning. “As industry leaders, we have a duty to take these responses and put them into practice, starting by focusing on sustainability related to hygiene, health and safety.”

It’s crucial that the housing industry take actionable steps to provide cleaner and safer housing to meet the growing demand, added Slavik-Tsuyuki.

“Think back to WWII when the automobile industry pulled the U.S. economy out of peril,” she said. “Now, the evolution of the housing industry has the strong potential of being a major factor in pulling the economy back from the devastation of COVID-19. Similar to the response of 9/11, where we witnessed a visible commitment to safety, COVID-19 has become a force of transformation calling upon the housing and development industry to respond in parallel.”

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