While home buyers report slightly more optimistic expectations for future housing availability in the first quarter of 2020, there is no commensurate improvement in their outlook for affordability. In fact, 78% say they can afford fewer than half the homes available in their markets, the same share as a year earlier. This in turn means that only 23% of buyers can afford half or more of the homes for sale in their markets, essentially unchanged from a year earlier (22%).
At least 75% of buyers in each of the four generations can afford fewer than half the homes for sale where they live. Geographically, 74% to 80% of buyers in every region of the country say they can afford under half of the homes available in their areas.
The timing of the data collection for this report is highly consequential. The online survey was in the field from March 17 through March 28, during the early stage of the COVID-19 crisis in the United States. About 12 million people filed for unemployment benefits in the two weeks immediately after data collection closed. For this reason, we assess that responses in this quarter’s report mostly reflect people's views prior to the full impact of stay-at-home orders and social distancing restrictions imposed by local and state governments.
Rose Quint, NAHB’s assistant vice president for Survey Research, provides more details in this Eye on Housing blog post.