Buyers viewed a record low number of homes before purchasing in 2021

Inman News

Of the median 8 homes buyers saw in 2021, they toured 3 of them virtually, according to a new analysis released Wednesday by the National Association of Realtors.

Homebuyers who purchased a home last year viewed a median of eight homes before buying — the lowest number since the National Association of Realtors started tracking the metric in 1987, according to the trade group.

In a blog post, NAR Vice President of Demographics and Behavioral Insights Jessica Lautz laid the record at the feet of low inventory and increased use of technology.

“At the height, buyers viewed 12 homes before purchasing in 2009 and 2011 as inventory was plentiful, following the Great Recession,” Lautz wrote. “During the housing boom years, 2004 to 2006, homes were moving at a rapid pace, but typically nine homes were viewed.

“Limited housing inventory has likely played a key role here. If there are few homes for sale in a price bracket, there are few homes to see. From the November 2021 existing-home sales data, there are just 1.1 million units for sale, a 13.3 percent decline from a year ago.”

In addition, of the eight homes buyers saw, they viewed three of them only online through virtual tours, virtual video tours, or virtual open houses.

“Homebuyers today have the ability to view homes online and quickly weed out what they want to see versus what can be discarded,” Lautz wrote.

Today, 95 percent of buyers use the internet to search for homes, up from 80 percent in 2006, and 51 percent first spot their home online, up from 24 percent in 2006, according to NAR.

Lautz also suggested that technology and bidding wars over scarce inventory have led to a shorter purchase timeframe for buyers. Listings typically attracted 3.8 offers in November, the trade group said.

“Buyers searched for just eight weeks before deciding on the home to purchase,” Lautz wrote. “From 2009 to 2013 buyers took their time and looked at homes over 12 weeks. As homes were moving at a slower pace, they could decide over a longer timeframe and perhaps view a home several times before putting in a contract. Buyers today do not have that luxury and need to make fast decisions on which home to place on offer on, as there is likely another buyer ready to pounce right behind them.”

Still, Lautz pointed out that the inventory shortage has affected buyers’ perceptions of the market.

“For some buyers who put down multiple contracts and repeatedly lost bidding wars, [viewing eight homes] may seem like very few, however for others who found limited housing inventory in their area, it may seem like a wide selection,” she wrote.