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Location, location, location? Price eclipses previous buyer priority

56% of consumers surveyed by Coldwell Banker said that price is the most important factor for them when choosing a home, casting doubt on the belief that location is everything.

Mortgage rates may have eased up from recent highs, but the sticker shock hasn’t yet worn off for homebuyers, a new consumer survey from Coldwell Banker Real Estate shows.

Fifty-six percent of consumers surveyed by Coldwell Banker said that price is the most important factor for them when choosing a home, in contrast to the 50 percent who said the location was most important, casting doubt on the seasoned advice that location is everything when buying a home.

The findings were revealed after Coldwell Banker, in collaboration with Censuswide, surveyed 4,213 U.S. consumers age 18 and older between Nov. 27, 2023, and Dec. 11, 2023, on topics surrounding real estate trends, market sentiment, property investment, and luxury spending. About one-quarter of those respondents were considered luxury consumers, who had purchased or soon planned to purchase a home in the U.S. worth $1 million or more.

“It’s a catchphrase of mine that data is our most valuable currency,” Jason Waugh, president of Coldwell Banker Affiliates, told Inman. “So one thing that I have found very refreshing within Coldwell Banker and the larger Anywhere, is they really value the data and getting consumer feedback in helping shape strategy and trends, and even investments in our businesses and sales professionals, and ultimately, how can we deliver a great real estate experience?”

Price consciousness

By gender, women have a more watchful eye on their wallets, with 60 percent of women reporting that price was the most important factor for them in buying a home, compared to 48 percent of men who reported the same.

Waugh said that as the market has continued to recalibrate since about mid-2022, consumers may be responding to market uncertainty by prioritizing price more than other factors like location that have often been thought of as more important.

“As I’ve characterized the market the last 18 months or so, it was really just a recalibration of the market,” Waugh said. “Well, that’s led to a lot of volatility and uncertainty, whether it’s the Federal Reserve and their tightening campaign or policy, and I think that you’ve had some people that have voluntarily self-selected out [of the market] just because of the volatility and uncertainty, and then other folks [for whom] affordability is an issue.”

The beginning of 2024 has seen more optimism and less volatility, Waugh added, which may bring those individuals who were more hesitant or cautious about prices back into the market more fully.

“That’s where I think we’ll see the folks coming back into the market that self-selected out,” he said.

Indeed, 56 percent of consumers surveyed said they believe the market will either improve or remain the same in 2024 as it was in 2023, which is a positive sign.

A continuing trend to relocation outside of one’s current city

Out of this year’s survey, homebuyers’ shift to prioritize price over location, as well as a surge in planned moves outside of one’s current city, were some of the most striking takeaways, Waugh noted.

The consumer sentiment survey also found that many consumers recently relocated for their dream home or a change of lifestyle. And many who plan to move soon won’t remain in their current town.

Nearly 40 percent of homeowners who plan to sell their property in the future intend to move to a new city, while 24.4 percent plan to move to a different state and 3 percent intend to move to a different country, for a collective 66.6 percent who will move to a town, state or country other than the one in which they currently live. By contrast, in 2022, when Coldwell Banker asked the same question in a similar survey, just 19 percent of respondents said they intended to move to a new city.

Social media’s role

When it comes to social media, consumers and agents alike are finding the tool to be helpful when it comes to home buying.

Coldwell Banker’s survey showed that a combined 43.4 percent of survey respondents reported that social media had somewhat or highly influenced what type of home they wanted to purchase.

Not surprisingly, the younger the consumer, the more social media influenced their home preference, with the youngest consumers (age 18-24) being most influenced by TikTok and older consumers (above 55) being most influenced by Facebook.

Anecdotally, Waugh said he hears from agents that social media serves as a helpful tool to both close deals and elevate their personal brands.

“From a branding perspective, or even a relationship building perspective, [social media has] certainly created further reach and efficiency, but there are absolutely folks that have shared with us that a good percentage of their business is coming from social media, whether that was Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok,” Waugh said.

With the findings from the report, Waugh said, Coldwell Banker Real Estate’s biggest aim is to provide real estate professionals with as much consumer intelligence as possible.

“We’re in such a fluid and complex time in business and the marketplace, we really just want to equip our sales professionals with market intelligence so they can go out and have conversations with folks,” Waugh said.

He also pointed to the brand’s Move Meter Match-Up, which was launched over the summer and allows consumers to directly compare two different markets. For those many consumers considering moving to a new city soon, that tool is a great way to assist them in deciding where to move.

“It’s about investing the time in getting consumer sentiment, and then equipping our sales professionals with tools and resources that will help the consumer make those informed decisions in buying and selling,” Waugh said.

The full 2024 Consumer Survey findings can be viewed on Coldwell Banker Real Estate’s blog.

By Lillian Dickerson

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