May/June 2021 Edition

Editor’s Note: How COVID-19 Pandemic Spurred Shifts In Homebuying Trends

COVID-19 dramatically shifted the way people bought and sold homes over the last year. Like many industries, the real estate industry was forced to quickly pivot to adapt to social distancing, mask requirements and shutdowns. A new survey report, released today from ServiceLink, part of the FNF family of companies and the nation’s premier provider of tech-enabled mortgage services, examines consumers’ attitudes and experiences when it comes to homebuying and refinancing, particularly over the last year, as well as the role technology plays throughout the homebuying process.

The 2021 ServiceLink State of Homebuying Report features insights from 1,000 homeowners and provides a better understanding of: how high home prices and low inventory impacted their decision to move or not; if they took advantage of historic low interest rates or why they didn’t; and how the pandemic has influenced their experience with technology.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Homebuying: Many respondents considered buying a home during the COVID-19 pandemic, but only a few ultimately proceeded. Another third are optimistic about buying in 2021.
    • 11% purchased a home in the last 12 months. Of those that did buy, 36% did so to upsize from their current home, 32% bought as an investment and 23% needed more space to work remotely.
    • One-third (33%) considered but ultimately decided against purchasing a home in the past year. Of those that didn’t buy, 34% decided to upgrade instead, 31% said housing options were too expensive and 24% indicated their financial situation changed.
    • Nearly one-third (32%) believe they are likely to purchase a new home in 2021.
  • Budgeting for a home: More respondents financed their homes (43%) with cash/savings than with a traditional bank lender (42%).
    • This gap jumps to50% cash and 32% lender for those who bought in the last year.
    • 28% received money from family and friends, either being gifted/inheriting funds (14%) or borrowed (14%) from those closest to them.
    • 11% borrowed from their 401ks to finance their home. Nearly 1 in 5 (17%) of Gen Z/millennials borrowed from their 401k.
  • Refinancing: The youngest generation of homebuyers led the surge in refinances in 2020, but many are still waiting in the wings.
    • 30% of survey respondents refinanced last year, primarily driven by Gen Z/millennial respondents at 45%, whereas 30% of Gen X and only 6% of baby boomer respondents refinanced.
    • Those who did not refinance last year mainly said they had a rate they were comfortable with (40%) or were waiting for rates to drop even further (27%).
    • Additionally, 50% of respondents said they were unlikely to refinance in 2021.
  • Technology: Technology is greatly improving and accelerating much of the homebuying process, improving consumer sentiment as well.
    • Of those respondents leveraging tech, they primarily used it to research property listings online (74%) or take a virtual tour of properties (47%).
    • 18% even said that moving forward they would consider buying a home without seeing it in person first.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and market conditions forced the real estate industry to reassess how it serves today’s homebuyer. With the evolution of technology to help streamline the process, it’s not surprising that our data found consumers are turning to tech-enabled providers who can meet their needs through any phase of the process,” said Dave Steinmetz, president of origination services, ServiceLink. “With interest rates at historic lows, I am encouraged by the number of younger respondents who have recently refinanced. However, for those unlikely to refinance this year, many could be leaving significant money on the table if they are waiting for rates to drop even further, as our study suggests. This demonstrates an opportunity for lenders to increase awareness and education around the benefits of refinancing in today’s market.”