Low Mortgage Rates & Desire for Space Continue to Convert Prospective Buyers into Active Buyers


Of the 15% of American adults considering a future home purchase in the final quarter of 2020, 56% have moved beyond planning and are actively trying to find one to buy, up from the comparable 43% share a year earlier. This increase marks the fourth consecutive year-over-year rise in the share of prospective buyers who have become active buyers. Several factors help explain the increase, including fear of missing out on low mortgage rates, a desire for more space due to COVID-19, and a desire to move out to outlying suburbs.

Between the fourth quarters of 2019 and 2020, significantly larger shares of Millennials (46% to 65%) and Gen X’ers (43% to 57%) planning to buy a home have become engaged and are actively searching for a home. On the other hand, the shares remained essentially flat among Gen Z (42%) and Boomer (38%) prospective buyers.

Geographically, larger shares of prospective buyers in every region are actively trying to find a home to buy than a year ago, but the increase is most notorious in the West (41% to 61%) and in the Northeast (49% to 67%).

As the share of prospective buyers actively searching for a home continues to increase, the length of time spent searching continues to grow. In the fourth quarter of 2020, 69% of buyers actively engaged in the purchase process have spent 3 months or longer looking, compared to 60% a year earlier. This marks the eighth consecutive year-over-year gain in the share of active buyers looking for 3+ months for a home to buy.

* 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 fifth in a series of six posts highlighting results for the fourth quarter of 2020. See previous posts on plans to buy, new vs. existing preference, housing availability, and housing affordability.

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