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Perception and Reality: What Home Buyers Want

  • August 19, 2011

by Andrew Siddons

Earlier this week at a forum hosted by the Coalition for Smarter Growth, speakers gave presentations on surveys that revealed a strong and growing preference for communities that are more walkable, have a greater mix of housing, retail and offices, and better public transportation.

However, this article takes a closer look at the survey presented by Joe Molinaro, Managing Director of Community & Political Affairs at the National Association of Realtors. Conducted earlier this year among 2,071 adults, the survey suggests that there are some gaps between perception and reality in terms of what home buyers want. While home sales have dropped significantly since the boom time of the mid-aughts — 321,000 new home sales in 2010, compared to more than 1.2 million in both 2004 and 2005 — 69 percent of those surveyed said that the economic downturn has not impacted their plans to buy a house.

Perception and Reality: What Home Buyers Want: Figure 1
Courtesy of the National Association of Realtors

Another statistic suggested that people are being more careful about the home buying decision, with 59 percent of the total number surveyed saying that it’s important to stay within their budget when buying, even if that means not living in their preferred neighborhood. However, of those identified as prospective buyers, almost half said they were willing to stretch their budget to live in a neighborhood they liked.

“I think that people who have made the decision to buy have already come to grips with the fact that they’re having to stretch their budget to get what they want,” Joe Molinaro told UrbanTurf. “People who want to buy a home are prepared to maybe get a little out of their comfort zone.”

The survey also asked people to identify unmet needs in their current communities. Forty-seven percent said that there is not enough low-income housing in the area where they live, while 42 percent said there isn’t enough for those with moderate incomes. In contrast, only 10 percent noted that there isn’t enough for those with higher incomes.

Perception and Reality: What Home Buyers Want: Figure 2
Courtesy of the National Association of Realtors

But the same question suggests that what people think their community needs is not necessarily in line with what they want. While one way to create more affordable housing is to build more homes, only 23 percent of those surveyed think that there aren’t enough new residences being built.

“They recognize that we need more affordable housing, but not as many people are open to new residential development, which is the only way to get more affordable housing,” Molinaro said. “They oppose higher density development, and theoretically, the result of that is more expensive housing.”

Molinaro added that people say they’d like to see development in existing communities, but that he believes they’re thinking in global terms.

“When it comes to their neighborhoods, they think differently,” he said.

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/what_do_home_buyers_really_want/4015

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