It’s no surprise that Merriam-Webster, the dictionary publisher, selected “pandemic” as its 2020 Word of the Year. The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic changed life in ways that none of us could have imagined in 2019. It was on every TV channel, every news website and part of every conversation. Everyone was impacted, including homebuyers and sellers.
Indeed, the pandemic even changed homebuyers’ housing preferences, according to the California Association of REALTORS’® (C.A.R.) Annual Housing Market Survey, which reveals homebuyers’ behavior throughout the 2020 year.
The recently-released survey found that more than two in five California REALTORS® (43 percent) saw a pandemic-related change in their buyers’ preferences in the property type they wanted to purchase in 2020.
In response to pandemic-related, government-imposed prolonged lockdowns and quarantines that forced homebound distance learning for school and working remotely for the job, the most frequent homebuyer requests included a bigger home (39 percent), a home with more rooms (35 percent), a home in a suburb rather than in an urban area (37 percent) and a home in a rural area rather than a city or suburb (26 percent). Not surprisingly, the survey also found 37 percent of homebuyers in 2020 were less concerned about the commute time to work.
The survey also showed a variety of interesting aspects of homebuyers’ behavior statewide in 2020.
-- The top three reasons homebuyers purchased a home in 2020 included tired of renting (25 percent), desire for a larger home (20 percent) and desire for a better location (19 percent). For first-time homebuyers, tired of renting was the most popular reason at 54 percent. For repeat homebuyers, 25 percent said their primary reason for buying in 2020 was a desire for a larger home, an increase from 21 percent in 2019. Respondents agreed that low mortgage rates made buying a home makes more sense than renting for many first-timers.
-- The average number of multiple offers made on available homes for sale in 2020 reached its highest level since 2013. Nearly two-thirds (59.2 percent) of homes sold in 2020 received multiple offers at an average of 4.8 offers per home. In 2019, less than half (47.7 percent) of homes sold received multiple offers with an average of 3.9 offers on each home. Homes priced between $500,000 and $1 million received the most multiple offers in 2020 with 67.3 percent receiving an average of six offers.
-- The real estate housing market in 2020 was one of the most competitive markets in decades. A large share of properties sold above their asking price in 2020. Approximately 35 percent of homebuyers paid more than what home sellers asked for in 2020, compared to a quarter (26.7 percent) in 2019. The 2020 figure was the highest in seven years and is 16 percent higher than the long-run average. Homes in the $500,000-to-$1 million price range sold the fastest with an average of 10 days.
-- More people purchased vacation and second homes in 2020, the highest percentage since 2016. Vacation homes represented 6 percent share of total sales, compared to 4 percent in 2019. The flexibility to work from home, plus a desire to move away from metropolitan areas, resulted in higher housing demand in resort areas. Overall, home sales in California resort areas outperformed other housing sectors in the state in 2020. In addition, the share of investor buyers of rental properties was 8.1 percent, the lowest since 2001, due to uncertainty over eviction moratoriums.
-- Home sellers in 2020 pocketed a gain of roughly $210,000 from their home sale, which was about 63 percent higher than the price they paid for their home. Not surprisingly, the longer a homeowner lives in their home will increase the profit they can expect when they sell. Sellers who lived in their homes for less than five years earned a 16 percent profit from their sale in 2020, while those who lived in their home five or more years earned a 100 percent profit.
C.A.R. has conducted its Housing Market Survey annually since 1981.