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Online Searches Show Shifting Priorities

Buying a home is typically the largest purchase one makes in their lifetime and with that comes a lot of research. When beginning house shopping, most people tend to start at the same place they go to get all of their questions answered: the internet.  

Instead of pulling from MLS data, or conducting yet another “market pulse” survey, Point2, an online real estate marketplace, decided to research certain keywords over the course of time to see how these terms have trended through the pandemic. 

According to Andra Hopulele, the author of the report from Point2, the pandemic put a serious dent in the preferences and expectations of those looking to move. And, in analyzing Google searches, it becomes obvious that renters, buyers and owners alike have changed their online behavior to better match their offline needs. Specifically, in the past two years, searches and questions about mortgage refinancing, movers availability, home office design, and home renovations have soared compared to pre-pandemic times. 

To complete this research, Point2 analysts looked at search terms like “affordable homes for sale,” “apartment with balcony,” “movers near me,” “rent assistance,” and even “how to paint kitchen cabinets” to see how the pandemic and the restrictions that followed affected interest in these aspects of housing. 

As a whole, the report followed 19 keywords relating to homebuyers over the course of three years (2019 to 2021) and found that the biggest spikes in the number of monthly searches were “affordable homes for sale” (up 108% in 2020 and an additional 30% in 2021), followed by search phrases such as “first-time homebuyer” and “tiny home for sale”—but also “luxury condos” which was up 50% compared to 2019. 

To get a feel for what renters are searching for, Point2 tracked 10 keywords and found certain search phrases appeared in 2020 and 2021 that, prior to the pandemic, few—if any—people knew about or were interested in. “Rent relief” went from 90 searches per month in 2019 to 9,900 in 2020 and 49,500 in 2021. Meanwhile, “eviction moratorium” was searched only 40 times per month in 2019, but came up a staggering 40,500 times in 2020, as well as 201,000 times in 2021. 

For homeowners, 15 different keywords were tracked such as “mortgage refinancing” and “home office design.” These searches, which rose 124% and 125%, respectively, remained high in 2021 as did the term “buying a second home” which jumped 53%. 

“Home to virtually all of the world’s information, Google is the ultimate repository of homebuying trends, the evolution of home prices, rental availability, neighborhood walkability, renovation costs, and everything and anything else related to our homes,” said Hopulele. “Thus, it makes sense that an event as influential as the Covid-19 pandemic would influence people’s interests. Likewise, the searches that buyers, owners, and renters are making online speak volumes to their new and changing housing preferences and needs.” 

To view the report in its entirety, including breakdowns for some top keywords, click here. 

About Author: Kyle G. Horst

Kyle G. Horst is a reporter for DS News and MReport. A graduate of the University of Texas at Tyler, he has worked for a number of daily, weekly, and monthly publications in South Dakota and Texas. With more than 10 years of experience in community journalism, he has won a number of state, national, and international awards for his writing and photography including best newspaper design by the Associated Press Managing Editors Group and the international iPhone photographer of the year by the iPhone Photography Awards. He most recently worked as editor of Community Impact Newspaper covering a number of Dallas-Ft. Worth communities on a hyperlocal level. Contact Kyle G. at kyle.horst@thefivestar.com.
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