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While home buyers report slightly more optimistic expectations for future housing availability (see earlier post) in the first quarter of 2020, there is no commensurate improvement in their outlook for affordability. In fact, 78% say they can afford fewer than half the homes available in their markets, the same share as a year earlier. This in turn means that only 23% of buyers can afford half or more of the homes for-sale in their markets, essentially unchanged from a year earlier (22%).

At least 75% of buyers in each of the four generations can afford fewer than half the homes for sale where they live. Geographically, 74% to 80% of buyers in every region of the country say they can afford under half of the homes available in their areas.

The timing of the data collection for this report is highly consequential. The online survey was in the field from March 17 through March 28, the early stage of the COVID-19 crisis in the US. About 12 million people filed for unemployment benefits in the two weeks immediately after data collection closed. For this reason, we assess that responses in this quarter’s report mostly reflect people’s views prior to the full impact of stay-at-home orders and social distancing restrictions imposed by local and state governments.

* The Housing Trends Report is a research product created by the NAHB Economics team with the goal of measuring prospective home buyers’ perceptions about the availability and affordability of homes for-sale in their markets. The HTR is produced quarterly to track changes in buyers’ perceptions over time. All data are derived from national polls of representative samples of American adults conducted for NAHB by Morning Consult. Results are not seasonally adjusted due to the short-time horizon of the series, and therefore only year-over-year comparisons are statistically valid. A description of the poll’s methodology and sample characteristics can be found here. This is the third in a series of five posts highlighting results for the first quarter of 2020. See previous posts on plans to buy and housing availability.