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House Hunters’ Evolving Wants, Needs, and Willingness to Compromise

The coronavirus pandemic changed the way people think about home, and while vaccine rollouts mean some things are returning to normal, this particular transition may last.

According to a report from Realtor.com, COVID-19 has influenced what house hunters want, while a hyper-competitive market has them strategizing about how to come out ahead.

A survey of 1,200 home shoppers showed that the want for space led the reasons for deciding to move to a new home. Most are seeking three bedrooms and two bathrooms, but they also are willing to exchange a short commute to work for more flexibility and affordability, which seems to be a trend in the post-pandemic world.

"The COVID pandemic ushered in a new way of thinking about what home means, and that is influencing much of what today's home shoppers are looking for," George Ratiu, Senior Economist at Realtor.com said. "Garages, large backyards, and space for pets always rank high on buyers' wish lists, but those features have grown in importance. The survey results highlight that the pandemic has elevated our relationship with family as well as the need for our home to serve multiple purposes, especially the ability to work remotely. As a result, we are placing a premium on the need to accommodate extended family, and features like a home office and broadband internet."

So, what specific features did respondents find most important? The following:

  • Quiet location (28%)
  • Updated kitchen (25%)
  • Garage and large backyard (24% each)
  • Outdoor living area (20%)
  • Space for pets (18%)
  • Updated bathrooms (19%)
  • Home office and broadband internet capabilities (17% each)
  • Open floor plan (16%)

As Ratiu mentions, family plays a large role in the desirability of a home, showed the report. Sixty-five percent of respondents indicated that they are considering extended family when they shop for a home, with nearly a quarter stating that they are planning to buy near family members. One-fifth of those surveyed said they would have extended family living with them full-time and 30% said their new home would need to accommodate extended family staying with them part-time or visiting.

Decreasing in importance from prior surveys was the need for a short commute time and a home with smaller square footage. Only 9% indicated a short commute time was a priority and 4% were looking for smaller square footage. This was down from 11% and 8%, respectively, in early March 2020 prior to the pandemic.

The report also revealed that today's homebuyer is prepared to compromise.

Twenty-eight percent indicated that they were planning to offer more than a 20% cash payment, 21% plan to increase their earnest money deposit, and 17% plan to either offer above asking price or all cash. Nearly half were prepared to offer up to 10% above the asking price.

"In today's competitive housing market, it is not uncommon to submit an offer above the home's list price. At the same time, knowing what you can spend and sticking to your budget is one of the most important things a home buyer can do. One way to ensure that you don't go over budget is to limit your search by using price filters to homes under your budget. That way, if you submit an offer that is over the list price, you'll still be within your maximum budget," said Realtor.com Housing and Lifestyle Expert Lexie Holbert.

The full report is available at Realtor.com.

About Author: Christina Hughes Babb

Christina Hughes Babb is a reporter for DS News and MReport. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, she has been a reporter, editor, and publisher in the Dallas area for more than 15 years. During her 10 years at Advocate Media/Dallas Magazine, she published thousands of articles covering local politics, real estate, development, crime, the arts, entertainment, and human interest, among other topics. She has won two national Mayborn School of Journalism Ten Spurs awards for nonfiction, and has penned pieces for Texas Monthly, Salon.com, Dallas Observer, Edible, and the Dallas Morning news, among others. Contact Christina at christina.hughesbabb@thefivestar.com.
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