America on the move: How the pandemic has influenced real estate markets nationwide

Key takeaways

  • Freed from the daily commute, homebuyers moved to new locations for affordability and space
  • New priorities for buyers include private outdoor space, a home office and room for pets
  • Real estate agents are adapting their strategies for hot sellers’ markets and less competitive markets

New data from the 2020 Census puts solid numbers on trends Americans have been noticing for the past decade: Utah, Idaho, Texas, North Dakota and Nevada are the fastest growing states in the nation. The states that lost the most residents over the past decade include Connecticut, Michigan, Ohio, Wyoming and Pennsylvania.

While the Census report compares 2010 and 2020 data up to April 1, 2020, recent data analysis confirms that buyers are moving away from high-cost coastal housing markets such as New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles to more affordable metro areas. The pandemic accelerated that pattern.

Depending on whether these buyers can work remotely permanently or commute only occasionally, they’re moving to more affordable locations near their office in Boston, Washington, D.C. or Seattle or decamping for more distant regions with even lower housing costs.

Where the buyers are

A survey of economists by the National Association of Realtors found the following cities among those that will experience the biggest post-pandemic rebound, Atlanta, Boise, Charleston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Des Moines, Indianapolis, Madison, Phoenix, Provo and Spokane.

The / Wall Street Journal Emerging Housing Markets analysis in April 2021 identifies the markets that are anticipated to experience continued housing demand and job growth in 2021 and beyond. The markets on the list below, which includes their median home list price, are a mix of resort areas, small cities and exurbs that offer affordability.

  1. Coeur d’Alene, ID - $799,000
  2. Austin, TX - $520,000
  3. Springfield, OH - $144,900
  4. Billings, MT - $428,500
  5. Spokane, WA - $434,900
  6. Lafayette, IN - $297,450
  7. Reno, NV - $562,000
  8. Concord, NH - $362,450
  9. Manchester, NH - $419,950
  10. Santa Cruz, CA - $1,222,000

New buyer priorities

The pandemic meant that everyone began spending more time at home working, going to school, exercising and entertaining. While some people must work on site, others are returning to a hybrid plan of remote and office work. The home-centric lifestyle brought quick demand for more space and privacy. Family members suddenly needed Zoom rooms, an exercise spot and a yard for dining and relaxing. A boom in pandemic pet adoptions increased the need for space for dogs, too.

4 ways agents can adjust to shifting markets

Some markets experienced a rapid spike in demand, while others saw buyers leaving for more affordable locations. In both cases, agents can use the following techniques to handle the new reality:

  1. Set expectations. Stay on top of rapidly shifting market conditions and let your buyers and sellers know the pace of sales and demand.
  2. Update your marketing. Agents in slower markets may want to recommend more staging for sellers, a pre-sale home inspection and the purchase of a home warranty as ways to set themselves apart from the competition.
  3. Upgrade your buyer prep. In a highly competitive market, agents need to prepare their clients for bidding wars with a preapproved loan, cash on hand and insight into market values. In hot markets, it’s important for agents to point out that online home estimates are outdated because home prices are escalating so rapidly.
  4. Line up support. Whether your market is slowing or speeding up, you’ll need an array of contractors and home inspectors to help your buyers and sellers. Contractors are in demand for renovations and pre- and post-sale repairs, so it’s smart to keep them on speed-dial. It’s also another reason why having home warranty protection for sellers is so important as finding someone to repair a failed system in today’s market can slow down a sale. Cinch home warranty coverage helps solve that problem with a service network in place. 

No matter what’s happening in your housing market, it’s essential to keep up with the latest trends to provide insights to your customers.


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