Photo by Anthony Fomin on Unsplash

There was much speculation during the early months of the pandemic about whether COVID-19 fears would spark an exodus to the suburbs. What unfolded was not so much a reaction to the virus, but a major shift in workplace trends and homebuyer needs. 

Thanks to a recent survey by Realtor.com, we now have data to pinpoint where home shoppers are seeking to buy — and it’s increasingly suburban. 

According to the survey of more than 2,000 active home shoppers, 51 percent of pageviews from urban residents living in the country’s 100 largest markets went to suburban properties in their respective metropolitan areas during the second quarter of 2020. Interest in the suburbs hasn’t been this high since Realtor.com began tracking the data in 2017.

“With remote work more common and accepted, it seems that people are looking to locate further from the office either to enjoy more space at a better price, or get closer to nature in the mountains or at the beach,” said realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale. “At this point, they are not venturing too far away.”

Outside interest in expensive Southern California markets such as Los Angeles and San Diego waned. Home shoppers currently residing in those cities turned instead to the more affordable Inland Empire metro of Riverside-San Bernardino, where home prices ticked up 7.4 percent in July amid a 50.4 percent decline in active listings — the steepest of any market nationwide.

“I would say 75 percent of my clients are staying in LA — they just can’t quit it — and 25 are looking to leave,” noted Compass agent Naomi Klein

California’s state capital, Sacramento, saw an influx of home searchers from San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles, lured by lower home prices and larger lots. Interestingly, outside buyers perusing San Francisco properties came primarily from San Jose, signaling that “nearby shoppers see an opportunity to get into the pricey, exclusive market.”

While Q2 saw significant inter-metro movement on the home search front, the coming months could bring about more long-distance moves as the proliferation of remote work intensifies.

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