3 in 4 Prospective Homebuyers and Renters Change Plans Due to COVID-19 [Survey]

Slashed salaries and safety restrictions among the top reasons Americans are changing their moving plans.
Last updated Sep 14, 2020 | By Tracy Odell
unhappy couple moving

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COVID-19 has already impacted the lives of Americans in countless ways and we continue to see new effects of the virus. The economic impact has been huge and devastating — the number of unemployed across all 50 states continues to grow. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 20.5 million unemployed people in April, and millions more have continued to file for unemployment each week since, despite some states starting to re-open.

The coronavirus has also re-shaped many of the foundations of our daily lives — from how we shop, to how we socialize, to how we work. All these changes have the potential to impact decisions about where Americans want to live. FinanceBuzz surveyed 1,500 U.S. adults to learn more about how COVID-19 and its economic impact are affecting people’s housing decisions.

The results show that while some Americans are following through with buying or renting new homes, others are rethinking those plans, and some are even looking to move to find better employment opportunities.

Key Findings

  • Only 1 in 4 Americans who were planning to buy or rent a new home between March and June 2020 are following through with these plans. The most commonly cited reason was the inability to tour new places due to COVID-19 restrictions (42%).
  • Over 60% of Americans claim 2021 is the soonest they would feel comfortable buying or renting a new home.
  • 16% of Americans temporarily relocated because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, 26% of Gen Zers and 9% of millennials reported that they have temporarily moved back in with their parents.
  • 26% of Americans said COVID-19 has caused them to consider moving permanently. Top reasons cited include: to lower their cost of living (41%), to be in a less populated area (29%), for more/better job opportunities elsewhere (27%), and to have a bigger yard or more outdoor space (27%).
  • 45% of Americans who were furloughed or laid-off due to COVID-19 are considering moving permanently.

Most potential buyers and renters are delaying their moves

Despite many states beginning to lift COVID-19-related restrictions, only one-fourth (25%) of Americans who had plans to move between March and June are following through with their plans. Fifty-eight percent are postponing their moves, and 17% have decided to stay put and not move at all.

For the 75% who are postponing or canceling their moves, the most commonly cited reason was the inability to tour new places due to COVID-19 restrictions (42%), while 41% attributed the change in plans to stay-at-home orders. Although virtual 3D tours have grown in popularity under lockdown, for many, there’s nothing like seeing your future place in person.

Other common reasons to put off moving included:

  • They’re waiting for the market to improve (25%)
  • They or their partner lost their job (19%)
  • Their landlord allowed them to have a month-to-month lease extension (15%)
  • It’s too hard to get approved from a mortgage lender (12%)
  • There’s less real estate inventory to choose from (11%)

How long will these factors impact prospective homebuyers and renters?

More than 60% of all respondents surveyed said they wouldn’t be comfortable buying or renting until 2021. And even if they wanted to do it sooner, it can be hard to figure out how to get a loan.

Some Americans temporarily moved in with others to quarantine

When shelter-in-place orders started making the rounds in March, some Americans hunkered down alone, and others joined forces. College students moved back in with mom and dad, new couples tested the waters and committed to weathering uncertainty together, and families toyed with the idea of forming quarantine pods.

FinanceBuzz found that 16% of Americans temporarily moved when the COVID-19 pandemic began. In fact, 26% of Gen Zers and 9% of millennials reported that they are temporarily living with their parents.

These new houseguests aren’t necessarily getting a free ride. More than half (51%) reported that they contribute to utility bills; others pitch in for groceries or household supplies (50%) or help with the rent or mortgage (43%).

How long these temporary houseguests will stay is up in the air. 37% said they’re unsure when they’ll return home due to the uncertainties around COVID-19. But 19% anticipate moving back in the next four-to-eight weeks, and 26% think they’ll bid their hosts farewell in more than two months.

COVID-19 outbreak prompts Americans to consider permanent relocation

The pandemic hasn’t just impacted Americans’ finances; it’s also encouraging them to rethink how (and where) they want to live. For more than one-fourth (26%), that means considering a permanent move.

And that figure nearly doubles when looking at respondents’ whose jobs were impacted by the pandemic.

Forty-five percent of Americans who were furloughed or laid-off during COVID-19 are considering moving permanently.

Reasons for considering a move

Many companies moved to remote work out of necessity when the pandemic began, and this shift could have a lasting impact on how Americans work and where we live. Tech companies like Twitter and Facebook announced that their employees may work remotely permanently. Other companies have announced similar plans, giving their employees the flexibility to move to lower cost of living areas while keeping their jobs.

For urbanites who've endured the months of lockdown in small apartments with no backyards, a move to the suburbs with more space and some private outdoor space has become more appealing.

The top reasons cited for all respondents considering a move were:

  • To lower their cost of living (41%)
  • To be in a less populated area (29%)
  • For a fresh start (28%)
  • For more or better job opportunities elsewhere (27%)
  • To have a bigger yard or more outdoor space (27%)
  • To be closer to their family (27%)
  • To live in a region less impacted by COVID-19 (26%)

Moving forward with home buying and renting

While house buying and renting haven't completely shut down during this pandemic, Americans have made some major shifts in their plans. While many are putting off a move, others are contemplating a move — either a temporary relocation or a more permanent one — that they wouldn't have considered pre-COVID-19.

Those considering buying a home over the next few months will likely experience extra hurdles as they try to secure a mortgage amidst stricter underwriting requirements and the looming risk of job loss. Others who are selling homes in areas that appeal to those relocating from cities or seeking lower cost of living areas may see a boon with higher sale prices.

COVID-19 has brought significant uncertainty to many aspects of Americans' lives, including housing and moving decisions. Its impact continues to be wide-ranging, but not uniform or predictable.

Methodology

FinanceBuzz surveyed 1,500 U.S. adults (ages 18+) on May 13, 2020 using the Pollfish platform. For the analysis, we defined baby boomers as respondents born between 1946 and 1964, Generation X as respondents born between 1965 and 1980, millennials as respondents born between 1981 to 1996, and Generation Z as respondents born after 1996.

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