A new report from realtor.com shows that amid the coronavirus pandemic U.S. homebuyers are increasingly looking for property in suburbs, particularly in the Northeast.

The report, out Monday, specifically shows that during the second quarter of 2020, 51 percent of views on realtor.com from urban residents in the 100 largest U.S. metros were of suburban listings in their own regions. That’s the highest percentage since realtor.com began tracking this data in 2017.

Danielle Hale

Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale said in the report that “those looking elsewhere are much more likely to be looking in smaller, nearby markets.”

“With remote work more common and accepted,” Hale continued, “it seems that people are looking to locate further from the office either to enjoy more space at a better price, or get closer to nature in the mountains or at the beach. At this point, they are not venturing too far away.”

This conclusion is in keeping with a number of prior findings. In June, for example, realtor.com itself revealed that suburban listings were gaining in popularity. A number of industry leaders have made similar points, including executives who have described shifting consumer preferences during recent earnings calls.

Numerous real estate agents have also spoken to Inman in recent weeks about seeing growing interest in homes with more space, more amenities and less proximity to urban job centers.

In the case of this week’s new report, realtor.com found that the Northeast in particular is heating up “as search activity is shifting to smaller, less dense areas.”

“This activity was primarily driven by residents of the region’s larger metros looking in smaller, nearby bedroom communities or vacation home markets,” the report adds.

In the West, the second quarter of the year saw fewer searches for homes in cities such as Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles, but more searches for homes in California cities such as San Francisco, Riverside and Sacramento. Work-from-home policies seem to be driving those trends.

“Demand in Riverside was heavily driven by Los Angeles residents, while the market also saw demand from San Diego searchers,” the report notes. “Sacramento homes were primarily viewed by home shoppers from San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles, which could be prompted by remote workers seeking affordability and more space.”

Elsewhere, the South and the Midwest have seen out-of-market searches decrease recently. The report attributes that trend to a spike in COVID-19 cases in the South, and notes that for the Midwest it “is consistent with concern for emerging COVID hot-spots in the region and pre-pandemic job market weakness.”

How long these trends persist, and if they translate into broader migration patterns to further-flung areas, remains to be seen. But for now it’s at least clear that, as Hale said in the report, the market is seeing “lingering effects of the coronavirus on shopping behavior and preferences.”

Email Jim Dalrymple II

coronavirus
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