Share of Americans Looking to Buy a Home Drops to Lowest 1st Quarter Reading in Three Years


According to NAHB’s latest Housing Trends Report (HTR), the share of adults who are considering purchasing a home in the next 12 months fell to 10% in the first quarter of 2020, down from 17% and 13%, respectively, in the first quarters of 2018 and 2019. This decline marks the sixth consecutive year-over-year drop in the share of American adults planning to buy a home in the year ahead. For the majority of these buyers (61%), this will be their first time buying a home, about the same share as a year earlier (60%).

The timing of the data collection for this report is highly consequential. The online survey was in the field from March 17 through March 28, the early stage of the COVID-19 crisis in the US. About 12 million people filed for unemployment benefits in the two weeks immediately after data collection closed. For this reason, we assess that responses in this quarter’s report mostly reflect people’s views prior to the full impact of stay-at-home orders and social distancing restrictions imposed by local and state governments.

In the latest HTR, Millennials are the most likely generation to be making plans to purchase a home within a year (16%), while Boomers are the least likely (5%). The share of Gen Z respondents with plans for a home purchase dropped to 13%, from 20% a year earlier. Geographically, 11% of respondents in the South and West are prospective home buyers, slightly ahead of the 8% in the Northeast and Midwest.

The likelihood that a prospective buyer is trying homeownership for the first time decreases with age: 85% of Gen Z buyers are first-timers, compared to only 25% of Boomer buyers. Looking at results by region shows that 2 of every 3 prospective buyers in the West are first-timers. The share is nearly 60% in the other three regions.

In terms of the type of home these prospective home buyers are interested in, 40% are looking to buy an existing home and 24% a newly-built home. The remaining 36% would buy either a new or existing home.

* The HOUSING TRENDS REPORT is a research product created by the NAHB Economics team with the goal of measuring prospective home buyers’ perceptions about the availability and affordability of homes for-sale in their markets. The HTR is produced quarterly to track changes in buyers’ perceptions over time. All data are derived from national polls of representative samples of American adults conducted for NAHB by Morning Consult. Results are not seasonally adjusted due to the short-time horizon of the series, and therefore only year-over-year comparisons are statistically valid. A description of the poll’s methodology and sample characteristics can be found here.  This is the first in a series of five posts highlighting results for the first quarter of 2020.

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