Time Spent Searching for a Home Continues to Rise


Of the 10% of American adults considering a home purchase in the first quarter of 2020, about half (49%) have moved beyond just planning and are actively engaged in the process to buy a home. This “active buyers” share was slightly higher than in the first quarters of 2018 and 2019—both 46%, and a possible sign that low interest rates steered a few marginal buyers to become engaged in the buying process.

Across generations, Millennials (54%) and Gen Z (51%) prospective buyers are the most likely to be actively looking for a home, compared to 43% of the older two generations. Across regions, more than half of buyers planning a home purchase in the Northeast (56%) and West (52%) are actively engaged, compared to 45% in the Midwest and South.

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.

Results from the latest Housing Trends Report also show that the time active home buyers are spending searching for a home continues to rise. In the first quarter of 2020, 56% of actively engaged buyers reported having spent at least 3 months searching, compared to 53% a year earlier. This marks the fifth consecutive year-over-year gain in the share of active buyers who have spent upwards of 3 months looking for a home to buy.

* The Housing Trends Report (HTR) 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 fourth in a series of five posts highlighting results for the first quarter of 2020. See previous posts on plans to buy, housing availability, and housing affordability.

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2 replies

  1. These statistics are very surprising. Although it is a big decision to change house and it demands time but still the trend surprised me.

  2. You have done a lot of hard work to collect this data. Rose, thank you so much for sharing your experience.

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