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According to the latest Housing Trends Report (HTR), the share of prospective home buyers expecting their house search to get easier in the months ahead rose to 25% in the first quarter of 2020, up from 16% and 22%, respectively, in the first quarters of 2018 and 2019. This rise marks the third consecutive year-over-year increase in the share of buyers expecting housing availability to improve. Conversely, the share of buyers who think availability will worsen (or stay the same) has dropped to 62%, compared to 73% and 67% in the first quarters of 2018 and 2019.

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.

Across generations, expectations that housing availability will improve are highest among Gen X buyers (27%) and lowest among Boomers (20%). Geographically, 20% to 27% of buyers in every region expect that finding a home will become easier in the months ahead.

Along with this slight uptick in expectations for easier availability in the months ahead, results also show the share of buyers who actually see more homes for-sale (that they like and can afford) holding steady at 31%, compared to 30% in the first quarter of 2019. At the same time, the share of buyers who report less inventory (fewer or the same number) of such homes on the market is 55%, down from 60% a year earlier.

Across generations, over 30% of Gen Z and Millennial buyers report seeing more homes they like and can afford for-sale than three months earlier, compared to 24% of Boomers. Regionally, buyers in the West are the most likely to report seeing more homes for-sale (33%), while those in the Midwest are the least likely (25%).

* Homes with desired features and price point.

** The Housing Trends Report (HTR) 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 second in a series of five posts highlighting results for the first quarter of 2020. See previous post on plans to buy.