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Fresh NAR report reveals the housing and lifestyle trends of COVID-19

(REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATIONS) This latest NAR report on housing and lifestyle shows some interesting trends based on COVID-19 and overall cultural changes.

Open housing with large kitchen and backyard more desirable.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) – the nation’s largest trade association – typically conducts a report called the Community and Transportation Preference Survey on migration and lifestyle trends every two years to inform the realty and transportation trends of the current moment. Due to the unprecedented cultural shifts as a result of COVID-19, NAR has decided to conduct two reports this year; one pre-pandemic last February, and one in July. Here’s some of their most interesting findings about housing wants:

  • What’s the group most affected by the pandemic? Young people – specifically young people with children. As a young person without children, my heart goes out to all of you raising the next generation right now.
  • People under 40 are the most likely to say that their life has been negatively impacted during this time. Perhaps that’s because people over 40 tend to be more settled in their lifestyles, have steady careers and have already bought their homes. Young people just aren’t set up for pandemics the way older people are. *sigh*
  • Overall, people in the survey noted a reduced need to live near highways, their place of employment, or public transportation. Because, where would you be going anyways? And why in such a hurry?
  • The desire to be near public transportation is down 8% from pre-pandemic levels.
  • Similarly, the desire to be near the highway is down 5%. I’m guessing this is because getting in your car and going on the highway is less of a risk than taking public transportation.
  • There is substantial demand for walkability across the board. You truly can pace around your apartment too much, and the masses are craving a change of scenery and some fresh air.
  • Those who are 55+ and higher income folks also report an increased desire for walkability.
  • That being said, those who live in areas where there are a lot of places to walk nearby reported an 8% better quality of life.
  • Families with children in school reported an increased desire for detached houses (no thank you, cramped apartment buildings!) and BIG yards. This is especially interesting, as back in pre-pandemic February, it was a smaller yard with a walkable neighborhood that was these same families found more desirable.

Some of these findings seem obvious – of course everyone wants a bigger house and bigger yard when you can’t go anywhere else. However, I think there is something to be said about the merit of having a formal survey with real data to validate our feelings about housing and lifestyle during such a strange and unprecedented time.

For some background, NAR conducts these housing and lifestyle surveys every 2 years, polling 2,000 individuals from the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the country. They have been conducting these surveys for two decades, the purpose being to track or predict what housing and transportation might look like for investors.

Besides the trends that were anticipated during this era, I think it’s especially important to note the increased desire to own homes in walkable yet non-urban settings (the possibility of owning a spacious home in the city is inherently not as viable as owning one in the suburbs or the country). I think what we’re going to see is young people aspiring to be homeowners again (hear that, millennials?), as a mass exodus from dense city life ensues.

As someone who loves the city and never wants to leave, I personally hope to take advantage of this cultural shift, which I hope will be reflected in increased rent drops. Fingers crossed!

Anaïs DerSimonian is a writer, filmmaker, and educator interested in media, culture and the arts. She is Clark University Alumni with a degree in Culture Studies and Screen Studies. She has produced various documentary and narrative projects, including a profile on an NGO in Yerevan, Armenia that provides micro-loans to cottage industries and entrepreneurs based in rural regions to help create jobs, self-sufficiency, and to stimulate the post-Soviet economy. She is currently based in Boston. Besides filmmaking, Anaïs enjoys reading good fiction and watching sketch and stand-up comedy.

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