May 15, 2020
It’s no secret that we’re in completely new territory when it comes to, well… pretty much everything. But with mortgage rates at historical lows, and home prices following suit, it feels like a carrot is being dangled in front of our noses to buy a home right now when the market is favoring buyers, but so many people are facing financial hardship. Alternatively, for potential buyers with stable jobs, how do they navigate the homebuying process while maintaining social distancing?
In this time of crisis, people are returning to the roots of their humanity and looking to the nostalgic pastimes of generations ago like baking sourdough bread and gardening. The home has once again become central to the lives of Americans and that is reflective of a larger cultural shift that is most likely here to stay for at least the next couple of years. With an increased motivation to create a home, consumers are going to put more energy into maintaining an optimal living environment for their families, especially if their are kids at home, or family members are moving back home as a result of the pandemic. This will result in a shift in home preferences like home size, location, and amenities to satisfy the needs of a family at home.
For those who are lucky enough to maintain a stable job, this may actually be a great time to buy a home. Remote work has been less affected by the pandemic (depending on the industry), and since Millennials have been on the teleworking bandwagon for quite some time now, there are more Millennials than other demographics who aren’t facing job loss. In fact, Millennial home purchases for March 2020 are up from the same month last year according to data from CoreLogic.
For many Millennials, dreams of homeownership were once squashed by high home prices and crippling student debt. But now, the largest homebuying demographic is taking advantage of low rates and looking at this time as an opportunity to get into first-time homeownership.
Social distancing isn’t going to stop the homebuying process. In fact, it’s revolutionizing it. In light of sheltering-in-place, the 6-feet-apart rule, and #StayHome ordinances put in place to discourage the spread of the virus by minimizing human contact, real estate professionals are getting crafty. Many Realtors are offering virtual home tours and open houses for interested buyers. Housing professionals are using home search apps to create 3D home tours for clients using panoramic photos taken on a smartphone. They’re using video chat technology like FaceTime or Zoom to have virtual meetings with buyers, hold initial showings, and maintain a strong connection with clients.
A recent study of Millennial homebuyers conducted by Cultural Outreach showed that 67% of prospective buyers are not taking advantage of virtual features offered by housing professionals. But 71% of respondents also said that they’re still optimistic about buying a home. So, if it’s not for lack of motivation and desire, consumers are probably more likely less aware of these virtual offerings – meaning, housing professionals need to rethink their marketing strategies and messaging to emphasize digitalization.
For an industry that has been slower-to-move on most digital trends and has relied on heavy paperwork and in-person meetings, the current environment is forcing digital technology to become a necessity over a novelty for the housing industry.