Suburbs have made up a growing share of Zillow’s top areas by views per listing — a product of the pandemic’s effect on inventory.

The most viewed communities on Zillow’s mega-sized listing service have skewed more suburban, a sign of just how much inventory has declined in these areas during the course of the pandemic.

Roughly 9 in 10 of the ZIP codes with the most views per Zillow listing in July were in the suburbs, a share that once rested between 60 percent and 75 percent before the coronavirus upended the nation’s housing market. 

Surprisingly, this dramatic shift did not appear to be a result of reduced homebuyer interest in urban areas, according to a new report by the listing service.

“We know that inventory is the explanatory factor behind this trend because the composition of views across [urban and suburban areas] has not changed over time, despite increased page views per listing in suburban ZIP codes,” the report reads.

The total share of views across the three types of area — urban, suburban and rural — has remained roughly the same in recent years, including throughout the pandemic. Roughly 70 percent of views occurred in suburban areas, with another 25 percent happening in urban listings.

Instead, it appears to be a question of inventory.

Chart by Zillow

With fewer homes on the market, the same number of eyeballs have been driven to fewer suburban listings, driving up the number of views on average. As a result, more of these suburban areas have shot up to the top of Zillow’s rankings for most views per listing.

In March, Zillow found the amount of for-sale inventory in urban areas declined 15 percent year over year. Suburbs were hit much harder by the inventory crunch, declining by 40 percent over the same period.

In practice, this means buyers in the nation’s largest urban areas may be facing a market that feels fundamentally different than in the competition-ravaged suburbs. More eyeballs on each suburban listing may lead to more bids.

Chart by Zillow

“Those consumers that are seeking a suburban home — a share that has generally remained unchanged from prior years — are left looking at a shrinking number of listings, driving up competition and overall views per suburban listing in the process, even as urban page views per listing have remained stable,” the report said.

This phenomenon was particularly extreme in big East Coast cities. New York City’s suburban ZIP codes saw growth in page views per listing that nearly doubled that of its urban ZIP codes. In the Philadelphia area, the gap between suburban and urban page views per listing nearly doubled, while Boston saw a similar pattern.

“This is not evidence of an urban exodus — based on their share of overall page views across metro areas, urban homes remain largely as popular as always,” the report said.

Email Daniel Houston

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