Online searches for homes in suburbs and rural areas has increased since the first quarter of 2020 in most major U.S. metro areas, a piece of evidence that the pandemic has had a measurable impact on homebuyer preferences.
In Charlotte, 58.4% of saved searches on Redfin.com were for homes in suburbs and rural areas—as opposed to cities—in the first quarter. That’s up from 53.7% in the first quarter of 2020, a bigger pandemic-era increase in the share of searches in suburbs and rural areas than any other metro.
That’s according to a Redfin analysis of saved searches from local residents suburbs and rural areas versus cities for two time periods: The first quarter of 2021 versus the first quarter of 2020. For this analysis, a city is the core city of a core-based statistical area, while suburbs and rural areas are anywhere outside the core city but within the larger CSBA. There are 29 metros included in the chart below; to be included, a metro area must be among the 29 metros with the most saved searches in the relevant time periods.
The uptick in homebuyer interest in suburbs and rural areas in many major metros signals a shift in homebuyer preferences since the onset of the pandemic.
“Now is a good time to look at the pandemic-driven shift to the suburbs because a full year has gone by since the coronavirus upended American lifestyles,” said Taylor Marr, lead economist at Redfin. “Homebuyers are searching in suburbs and rural areas more than they were before the pandemic, partly because the closure of offices, restaurants and shops have made cities less attractive, and partly because homes in the city tend to be more expensive.”
“Even with vaccines rolling out and city amenities on the rebound, suburbs will continue to be attractive for many homebuyers, mostly because it’s easier to find relatively affordable, spacious single-family housing outside of city centers,” Marr continued. “Buyers who are able to continue working remotely at least part of the time are doing the math. While a bigger house may not have been worth a long commute five days a week, it is worth it if they only need to go to the office one or two days a week.”
After Charlotte, Austin saw the next-biggest uptick in the share of searches in suburbs and rural areas, with 57.2% of Redfin.com saved searches for homes in those neighborhood types in the first quarter, up from 52.9% a year earlier.
Nashville rounds out the top three: 65.1% of home searches in the Nashville metro were in suburbs or rural areas in the first quarter, up from 62.1% a year earlier.
The share of searches for homes in suburbs or rural areas as opposed to cities increased or stayed the same from the first quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021 in 20 of the 29 metros included in this analysis.
Virginia Beach, Baltimore and Houston are the top three metros where cities have become more popular since before the pandemic. In Virginia Beach, 62.3% of saved searches on Redfin.com were in suburbs and rural areas in the first quarter, down from 66.9% in the first quarter of 2020. In Baltimore, 85.9% of searches were in suburbs and rural areas in the first quarter, down from 87.1%. In Houston, it’s 48%, down from 48.9%.
Nationwide, 75.2% of saved searches on Redfin.com were for homes in suburbs or rural areas—as opposed to cities—in the first quarter, up slightly from 74.3% in the first quarter of 2020.