Pandemic is changing home buyer and seller preferences

Northern Wasatch Association of Realtors Advice, Update

Shauna Ray, 2020 President
Northern Wasatch Association of REALTORS®

As people spend more time at home than ever before — juggling remote work, virtual learning and a plethora of other responsibilities — many are rethinking their housing must-haves and looking for homes that will get them through the pandemic.

In fact, a new study from the National Association of Realtors found that the pandemic has changed several home-buying and selling behaviors. In particular, both buyers and sellers say they want more space.

“The coronavirus without a doubt led home buyers to reassess their housing situations and even reconsider home sizes and destinations,” said Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral insights at NAR.

The 2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers surveyed thousands of recent home buyers and sellers about their real estate experience. Researchers then examined how their preferences differed before and after the pandemic.

 Here are some of the findings:

Buyers want more space

            Several of the survey questions point to buyers wanting more space.

The study found that buyers who purchased after March were more likely to buy in the suburbs. Prior to the pandemic, about half of buyers purchased in the suburbs. That jumped to 57% after April.

            Another pandemic trend was increased interest in multi-generational homes. The share of multi-generational homes purchased increased from 11% to 15%. After March, a greater percentage of buyers cited a need to purchase this type of home to take care of aging parents, spend more time with relatives, have more space for adult children and pool resources to buy a larger home.

“Buyers sought housing with more rooms, more square footage and more yard space, as they may have desired a home office or home gym,” Lautz said. “They also shopped for larger homes because extra space would allow households to better accommodate older adult relatives or young adults that are now living within the residence.”

Sellers want to sell quickly

            As family members spent more time at home, urgency increased to get a house that better addressed a seller’s needs.

“So many sellers were eager to get out of their old home and move to something bigger that would better meet their needs during quarantine,” Lautz said.

            During the pandemic, the percentage of sellers who said they had a somewhat urgent need to sell increased to 46%, up from 39% prior to April.

            The reasons for selling also changed during the pandemic. Before April, the top reason for selling a home was to be closer to friends and family. After March, sellers were more likely to say they were selling because their home was too small — 18% compared to 13% prior to the pandemic. 

Technology increases

            The pandemic also changed how buyers view homes and how sellers advertise their homes. At 97%, the number of buyers searching for a home online is at its highest percentage ever.

“Some buyers purchased their homes before ever physically seeing them in person,” Lautz said. “They researched, viewed photos online and did virtual tours from their computers and phones, and ultimately made an offer through their agent.”

Sellers made those searches easier by incorporating virtual tours. More than a quarter of sellers used virtual tours after March compared to 16% pre-pandemic.

            Even as technology has increased, so has reliance on real estate professionals. Nearly 90% of buyers used an agent to purchase their home, which is a near historical high.

“We are all in unknown territory with this pandemic, so it’s no surprise that more buyers than ever turned to agents to help them navigate through some of the uncertainties and one of the most complex, competitive markets any of us have ever seen,” said Vince Malta, president of the National Association of Realtors. To learn more about buying and selling during the pandemic, contact a local Realtor. Find one at