Homebuyers are back online. The initial response to the pandemic caused traffic on many listings websites to take a nosedive. But, after some of the panic started to subside, home seekers resumed their online house hunting. Since then, searches for homes have gone up — reaching and even surpassing pre-pandemic levels.
But, despite being so active online, many potential homebuyers are still reluctant to take the buying process to the next step. Although agents managed to transfer some of the process online, replacing on-site visits with virtual tours, a significant part of homebuying is still represented by in-person experience. That’s because buying a home is as much an emotional decision as it is a financial one. As a result, photos or live tours and phone calls, while useful, can’t replace the more personal approach.
So, to follow the changes in homebuyers’ attitude and to see how their behaviour is influencing the buying and selling processes, we have been monitoring traffic and surveyed homebuyers, beginning shortly after the first containment measures were taken. Here are the latest updates:
Traffic Soars Due to Renewed Interest
The pandemic forced what seemed like the whole world into lockdown. During those early weeks, interest in anything other than the new virus seemed to simply vanish, and real estate — like many other economic sectors — took a significant blow.
However, home searches on Point2Homes.com started picking up after the initial dive at the beginning of March. Specifically, comparing data from the day with the absolute lowest number of visits (March 23) to the day with the highest number of home searches so far (May 18), traffic surged 117%.
Moreover, visits on the platform are up 42% year-over-year for the week of May 17-23, bringing the numbers back in line with seasonal trends and marking a new milestone in the website’s growth. Certainly, the homebuying process has been slowed considerably and many people have put everything on hold indefinitely. But, the recent increase in online activity may suggest that prospective buyers are paying close attention to price changes and the number of properties on the market.
Although traffic fell 20% in the third week of March, it has since recovered. What’s more, despite some fluctuations, visits have been growing steadily ever since — a clear sign that homebuyers have reverted their attention back to the search process.
Similarly, when analyzing Google Trends data, it became clear that overall real estate-related searches had followed the same path. For instance, after an initial decline, searches for terms like “house for sale,” “condos for sale” or “cheap homes” are spiking once again.
Now, it seems as though offline activity needs to catch up to online interest. With the real estate sector operating at a diminished capacity for the past few months, the homebuying process is still in the lurch. In fact, many real estate agents fear that at least half of their business will simply vanish by the time activity on the market will be resumed. And, although homebuyers are starting to realize that keeping a finger on the pulse of the real estate market is a must, translating this online activity into real-life transactions might take a bit more time.
Buyers Engaged Online, but Forced to Wait in Real Life
To gauge the state of mind of buyers as they begin each new week, we delved into survey data and charted the evolution of homebuyer attitudes toward buying property. While some pessimism began to seep in at the beginning of April, Canadian homebuyers have mostly maintained a neutral attitude. The majority of survey respondents said they were keeping an eye on the market.
As the chart shows, the percentage of people who want to hold on to their homebuying plans dropped from 29% in the first week of the survey to 25% on the last week of April. Conversely, the percentage of people who completely gave up the idea of buying reached 32% — up from 25% just a few weeks prior.
Canadian homebuyers have definitely taken a step back, adjusting their hopes and expectations rather than maintaining a positive — but possibly misguided — attitude toward buying. Specifically, the percentage of buyers who were determined to buy property in the next six months decreased significantly, going from 31% to 24% in a few weeks.
Interest in Less Expensive Properties On the Rise
Although the percentage of respondents who mentioned financial worries did not budge from around 32% since the first week of the survey, responses to the follow-up question are much more telling. In particular, of the home seekers who are still interested in buying and would like to do so in the next six months, 37% were looking for less expensive homes — up from 27% a few weeks earlier. This might point to the fact that buyers expect the economic and financial backlash of the pandemic to increase in severity and perhaps even last longer than initially estimated.
Meanwhile, responses to the last question of the survey show that homebuyers are eager to get back to what might be considered the traditional aspects of homebuying — going to showings and visiting properties in real life, rather than continuing to rely on pictures and virtual tours. In fact, 9% of respondents said they would go to open houses, up from 6% a few weeks ago, while the percentage of home seekers who said they would continue to rely on virtual tours decreased from 56% to 52%.
Increasingly, homebuyers are also choosing to resume their search for the ideal home. The percentage of respondents who said they wanted to put the process on hold dropped to only 5%, after hovering around 9% during the first days and weeks of the lockdown.
Many potential buyers are going online and checking to see where the market is headed — and many of them might be ready to simply pick up where they left off as soon as more of the restrictions are lifted. Although homebuying and selling were suddenly halted right at the beginning of the season, the potential for a remarkable year in real estate might not be lost quite yet lost.
- Data for the evolution of traffic was sourced from www.point2homes.com.
- The survey for homebuyers included five multiple-choice and rating questions and was available to prospective homebuyers between March 23 and April 29, 2020.
- A total of 11,819 prospective homebuyers answered all the survey questions and provided valid answers.
- This survey was anonymous; all data was aggregated for the final results.
- All percentages were rounded. As a result, percentages presented for each question in this report may not add up to exactly 100%.
- Previous traffic reports and surveys: March Traffic Report, Homebuyer Sentiment Survey, Real Estate Agent Sentiment Survey.
Fair use and redistribution
We encourage you and freely grant you permission to reuse, host, or repost the story in this article. When doing so, we only ask that you kindly attribute the authors by linking to Point2Homes.com or this page, so that your readers can learn more about this project, the research behind it and its methodology.