According to George Ratiu, senior economist at Realtor.com, “the impact [of COVID-19] on consumer preferences will likely shift buying behavior. Consumers are already looking for larger homes, bigger yards, access to the outdoors and more separation from neighbors. As we move into the recovery stage, these preferences will play an important role in the type of homes consumers will want to buy.” Interestingly, Ratiu predicts that COVID-19 will also have an impact on zoning and urban planning. “While higher density has been a hallmark of urban development over the last decade, the pandemic may lead to a rethinking of space allocation.”
In a recent Harris Poll survey of 2000 Americans, 39% of respondents who live in urban areas indicated that the COVID-19 crisis had prompted them to consider a move to a less populated area. We’re almost certainly going to see increased buyer interest in the suburbs and rural communities, but I don’t think a mass exodus from the cities is likely. The perks of urban living will just be too tough for many to forego.
For home buyers who work in Seattle and still want to live in an urban setting, Tacoma may become an increasingly attractive option. The commute from T-Town to the Emerald City has historically been a sticking point for some buyers considering a move south, but the work from home experiment that the pandemic has prompted could have a long term impact on how and where we work. People who used to commute to an office in Seattle or Bellevue five days a week may shift to one or two days in the office with the balance of their work time at home. The commute from Tacoma to the north becomes a lot less burdensome if it’s just once or twice a week. The value proposition that Tacoma has long represented in comparison to Seattle may soon become even more attractive.