Younger people with children are showing an increased desire for detached homes and larger yards than they did before the coronavirus pandemic, according to surveys from the National Association of Realtors.
The 1.4 million-member trade group usually conducts a Community and Transportation Preference Survey every couple of years. But this year, NAR decided to conduct two surveys — one in February and one in July — to analyze the impacts of the pandemic on American migration trends. Each time, the trade group surveyed 2,000 adults in the 50 largest metro areas in the U.S.
“NAR has conducted community preference surveys for over 20 years, providing Realtors and their communities with decades of information regarding changing American lifestyles and migration trends,” said NAR President Vince Malta in a statement.
“In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, this data has become even more consequential, helping local communities and Realtor associations implement various smart growth changes to account for these shifts.”
In the latest July survey, NAR found that the vast majority of respondents — 80 percent — were satisfied with their quality of life in their community, down slightly from 82 percent in February. But Generation Z (those born in 1997 or later), millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996), and the Silent and Greatest Generations (those born 1944 or before) experienced declines in their quality of life while Gen X (born between 1965 and 1980) and baby boomers (born between 1945 and 1964) saw slight increases.
Quality of life appears to be correlated with walkability. The survey showed that 59 percent of those aged 18 to 35 lived in a neighborhood with lots of places to walk nearby in July, down from 70 percent in February. A slightly smaller share of those aged 35 to 49 also lived in less walkable neighborhoods in July (62 percent vs. 64 percent in February).
When asked about important factors in deciding where to live, 72 percent of respondents said it was important to have easy access to the highway, down from 77 percent in February. A smaller share of respondents also said it was important to have public transit nearby: 63 percent in February vs. 56 percent in July.
While the share of overall respondents who thought it was important to be within a short commute to work was down slightly — 70 percent in July vs. 73 percent in February — millennials ranking a short commute as important fell significantly, from 49 percent in February to 40 percent in July. Millennials also found proximity to public transit to be more important in February than in July: 40 percent vs. 34 percent.
When broken down by income, the importance of being near a highway remained essentially unchanged for those making less than $50,000 a year (34 percent in February, 33 percent in July), as did the importance of a short commute to work (39 percent in February vs. 38 percent in July). These percentages dropped significantly among those with higher incomes.
Millennials and Gen Zers were less likely to say it was important to be within an easy walk of other places and things in July compared to February. The three oldest generations from Gen X upwards were more likely to say it was important compared to February. Still, 74 percent of overall respondents said walkability was important, down slightly from 76 percent in February.
The pandemic hasn’t changed that a slight majority of Americans continue to prefer a walkable community with small yards compared to a community where you have to drive to places that has large yards.
“Although COVID has dramatically changed people’s lives, this study shows that a substantial demand for walkability persists for Americans of all ages,” Malta said.
But among Gen Z and millennial respondents with children in school, majorities would prefer to live in communities with large yards and where you have to drive to places.
Somewhat higher majorities of respondents, particularly those with children in school, reported a preference for a detached, single family home with less walkability and a longer commute over an apartment or townhouse in a walkable neighborhood with a shorter commute.
Still, half of Gen Zers without kids said they’d prefer a detached home, a big jump from 29 percent in February.
More than half of respondents reported wanting more access to outdoor space, a larger home with more rooms, an office or private workspace and wanted to live in an area with fewer people and more outdoor space. These desires were largely driven by Gen Zers, millennials, and Gen Xers while nearly two-thirds of those in the Silent and Greatest Generations said they would prefer living closer to family.