Looking forward—Predicting changes in demand for new housing

A new home being built in a suburban area © Kanpisut Chaichalor - Dreamstime.com

If it feels like the walls are closing in on you after a month stuck at home, you’re not the only one. Buyers are fleeing densely populated city locations to more spacious suburban areas, and the trend is expected to continue.

[Related: Construction suppliers are one industry still experiencing business as usual]

The industry has been adapting where it can to keep businesses afloat, and builders have been able to stay flexible as construction was deemed essential in Colorado. However, new opportunities beyond just surviving may be on the horizon.

John Burns Real Estate Consulting dubbed homeowners shift out of cities “The Great American Move,” and predicts changes for new homes, single-family rentals, apartments and commercial buildings. We talked to their Denver-based Senior Manager Devyn Bachman about this trend and what it might look like for Colorado.

Before the pandemic

Real estate was booming before the pandemic, around the country and in Denver. 

“[The market came] absolutely roaring into 2020, with undoubtedly the best housing market that we have seen post recession, in the start of Q1 of 2020,” Bachman said. “Builders are telling us, ‘These are some of the best months I’ve ever had in home building.'”

That was January and February. She explained that some builders saw a bit of business happening in the beginning of March, while others saw absolutely nothing. We know now that while some areas in the country deemed construction an essential business, others did not, which may have contributed to these disparities.

A turn for the better

As April went on, virtual possibilities were explored, and the chaos curbed in the consumer mind, at least a little bit. At that point, those working from home with others or children doing the same, or those in multifamily units who are unable to be completely distant, started getting the itch to get out.

“Right around the first of April, we started to see the bottom, and we’ve seen incremental improvements since then. We are not back to where we were—we’ve improved from the bottom of the pandemic, but we’re not back to the roaring market we we’re once in, and it’s going to be quite some time before we reach those levels again.

“But throughout this pandemic, who are we hearing moving? It is those folks in the dense, urban settings, who are wanting to flee those apartments for new homes that are safe, clean, easy to show, easy to access.”

New opportunities in new homes

Along with the health and safety factor of a new home, most of the space and opportunity for a new home is in more suburban areas, away from the cities. The number of people now working from home, and the likelihood of continuing to work from home in the future, is giving people less motivation to live downtown near an office.

She also noted that this could be a push for millennials who have been, as a generation, dragging their feet on homeownership.

In Colorado specifically, she predicts movement toward suburbs surrounding Denver rather than away from the area entirely.

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