Survey: COVID Changed What People Look for in a Home

TAGS: SurveysCOVIDHomebuying
Survey: COVID Changed What People Look for in a Home
Article Excerpt

A survey of recent and prospective homebuyers shows how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected what people want in a new home.

Many, perhaps most, features of a home are matters of personal preference and taste, from the number of bedrooms to the style of the house’s exterior. Tastes change over time. Some features fall out of fashion while others come back into style.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) periodically conducts a survey of recent and potential homebuyers to find out what they want in a home. It conducted the most recent survey during the summer of 2020 and published it in early 2021 in the latest edition of What Home Buyers Really Want.

This survey occurred in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic when many people were still sheltering in place in their homes. More than 3,200 “recent and prospective home buyers” participated. The results of the NAHB survey show how the pandemic may have affected homebuyers’ preferences.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected homebuyers’ preferences?

Most survey respondents said that the pandemic had not affected their overall preferences with regard to housing:

No effect


Some effect


Maybe/not sure


The pandemic had the most pronounced effect on householders with at least one person who worked remotely or attended virtual classes. Forty-three percent of homebuyers with at least one teleworker or virtual student in their household reported that the pandemic had affected their preferences. Only nine percent of homebuyers with neither in their household stated that the pandemic had changed what they wanted in a home.

girl working from home at laptop

Photo by MART PRODUCTION from Pexels

The report of the survey results identifies the impact of the pandemic on features like home size and location. It also examines more specific features like price, type of utilities, and the number of people living in the home.

Home Size

Twenty-one percent of the respondents stated that they prefer a larger home than they would have wanted before the pandemic. Twelve percent now prefer a smaller home. As with the overall effect of the pandemic, households with teleworkers or virtual students were more likely to want a larger home because of the pandemic.

Respondents reported currently having homes with a median area of 1,877 square feet. The median preference, however, is 2,022 square feet. The NAHB states that it is reasonable to deduce that homebuyers’ median preferred square footage would have been smaller if the pandemic had not occurred.


More people want to live in the suburbs than before the pandemic. Thirty percent of respondents stated a preference for a suburban home, compared to 26% in the last pre-pandemic survey. Every other location listed in the survey either saw no change or a decrease in preference.

Type of Home

Two-thirds of respondents would like to live in a single-family detached home. Townhouses and condominiums were much less popular, with 15% and 8%, respectively.

New Construction or Existing Home

The pandemic appears to have affected homebuyers’ preference for new homes over existing ones. The 60% who stated that they would prefer new construction is the largest share since 2007. The NAHB states that this could be the result of several factors:

  • The risks associated with viewing owner-occupied homes during a pandemic

  • The lack of inventory of existing homes

  • The relatively larger amount of new construction in the suburbs, where nearly one-third of homebuyers want to buy

Expected Median Home Price

The median price that homebuyers either expect to pay or recently did pay was $264,634.

Number of Generations in the Home

Respondents split evenly, at 39% on each side, over whether they would prefer a house designed for a nuclear family or one that could house multiple generations, e.g. grandparents, parents, and children. The remaining 23% said they weren’t sure which they’d prefer.

family taking a selfie at the dinner table

Home Features

The report of the survey results highlighted how homebuyers responded with regard to several specific features.

Exterior Design

Respondents didn’t pick a clear winner among four types of exterior home design:









Open Room Layouts

People love open floor plans, it seems. Respondents overwhelmingly prefer open arrangements between certain rooms:

Kitchen and dining room


Kitchen and family room


Dining room and family room


contemporary style house

Photo by Max Vakhtbovych from Pexels

Laundry Room

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of homebuyers want their laundry room on the first floor, as opposed to upstairs or in a basement.

Gas vs. Electric

Results were split on the type of utilities homebuyers prefer for different functions. They prefer electricity for heating and air conditioning, 52% to 33%; and gas for cooking, 51% to 39%. Water heating had no clear winner, with 45% wanting gas and 40% preferring electricity.

Number of Bedrooms

The number of homebuyers wanting four or more bedrooms dropped from 40% in 2007 to 32% in 2020. Children might be a significant factor in this preference, as married couples want at least four bedrooms at nearly four times the rate of single-person households.

Three bedrooms were the choice of a plurality (46%) of respondents.

Number of Bathrooms

Respondents were split on the preferred number of bathrooms:

Three or more








Size of Garage

Two-car garages lead in garage size preference:

Three or more cars


Two cars


One car


Front Door

The survey presented seven choices for front door colors. None reached a plurality. The front-runners were white (24%) and brown (17%).

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While COVID may have changed what people are looking for in a home - they still want a home! Whether you’re ready to buy now or you just have a few questions about the process, The Wood Group of Fairway is here to help.

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