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Understanding Today's Home Buyers: Insights from Zillow's Housing Trends Report

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

A graphic of a woman giving a presentation with a bar graph showing an upward trend, a small house prop, and a stack of large coins. A title reads: Evolution of the New Construction Home Buyer: What You Need to Know.

Staying updated with market trends is vital, especially in the dynamic housing industry. Zillow's Consumer Housing Trends Report for 2023 - a survey of over 1,900 new construction buyers and 2,700 existing home buyers who purchased in the past two years - brings a fresh perspective, shedding light on how new construction buyers have changed over the years. Laura Regester, a National Account Representative with Zillow, shared some great insights at a recent Professional Women in Building Event, and we've taken the liberty of breaking down her key points in this article.

Laura Regester brings a combination of tech-savviness, market know-how, and a flair for effective communication. With her knowledge in tech sales and her journey at the nation's premier real estate marketplace, she harnesses the potential of internet-based marketing as few can. Her experience doesn't stop there - having served as an account manager at a top e-commerce retailer and boasting a strong background in writing and editing; she effectively communicates strategies that drive growth.

The Evolving New Construction Buyer

If you're wondering who typically buys new constructions today, they're likely to be around 44 years old, partnered or married, boasting a median income of $110K, and holding a 4-year college degree, and they’re most likely to buy in the South. 36% of these buyers were exclusively interested in new construction homes while 35% were more interested in new construction homes but were also open to looking at existing homes as well if they met the characteristics or requirements the buyer was looking for.

Interestingly, the appeal of customization has grown, which is something new home builders should consider highlighting in their marketing materials and conversations. In 2022, the idea of tailoring a home throughout its construction phase became more attractive to buyers than just seeking a ready-to-move-in home representing the motivation of 35% of new construction buyers - an increase of 10% from 2021. In 2023, 44% of buyers said they planned to buy a completed home, while 21% were seeking a home already under construction that could still be customized.

While we typically think of new construction home buyers as buying their homes in new communities, the data shows us that the attraction towards all-new communities or subdivisions has declined from 77% in 2020 to 67% in 2022.

A chart titled "Percentage of new construction buyers who intended to customize their home from scratch" - 2021 shows 25%. 2022 shows 35%.

Part of the appeal of established neighborhoods may be the fact that the communities are not under development and don’t need to worry about delays or amenities. With a limited supply of existing homes for sale in good condition, an increase in redeveloped and infill homes has been well-received.

The Digital Homebuying Experience

Digital is the way forward, and new construction buyers are expressing an increased interest in digital tools over traditional methods. This is evident as 43% of these buyers now prefer 3D virtual tours over in-person tours. Additionally, 85% of them are more inclined to view a home if it comes with an online floor plan. Notably, a significant 68% of them believe virtual tours offer a better feel of the home compared to static photos.

Builders need to consider how much more confident buyers are when 3D virtual tours and virtual floor plans are available. In 2022, 43% of new construction buyers said they felt confident enough about a new home from viewing the virtual tour to make an offer to buy a home. For existing home buyers, that percentage dropped to 29%.

In 2022, 69% of new construction buyers were anxious about a new home because they couldn’t imagine what it would look like, and a majority also said they felt they had wasted their time on listings when a virtual floor plan wasn’t available. Virtual floor plans can give buyers more confidence in a new construction home and make them feel their time was well invested.

In addition, over 66% of new construction buyers prefer to schedule in-person tours online, so new home builders can benefit by letting digital tools remove barriers between buyers, tours, and sales appointments.

A bar graph labelled "How buyers feel about 3d virtual tours". The first pair of bars is labelled "Buyers who said virtual tours gave them a better feel for a home's interior than static photos" - the new construction buyer bar shows 68% and the existing home buyer bar shows 64%. The next pair is labelled "buyers who wish more listings had 3d tours available". The new construction buyer bar shows 67% and the existing home buyers bar shows 56%. The last pair of bars is labelled "Buyers who preferred 3d tours to in-person tours" and the new construction buyer bar is labelled 43% and the existing home buyers bar shows 20%.

Desirable Features in Homes & Neighborhoods

A photograph of Laura R presenting. She is in an informal environment, under a large tent-like structure and standing on wood chips. She is a young woman with long, light brown hair holding a microphone. She is wearing a white sleeveless top and blue plaid-patterned pants and holding a microphone.

Homes are no longer just about shelter for current home buyers. A whopping 83% of new construction buyers see potential growth in value as a crucial factor. The community aspect is gaining traction, with 53% of these buyers in 2022 showing interest in shared community amenities – a considerable leap from 38% in 2019. Specific features buyers seek out include parking, ample storage, and private outdoor spaces.

The sustainable and tech-friendly wave isn't far behind. 77% of new construction buyers now see energy efficiency as highly vital, and 61% view smart home capabilities as extremely important.

Three primary takeaways emerge from Laura’s presentation of Zillow's report:

  1. Customization: The modern buyer values personalization, desiring homes that resonate with their unique preferences.

  2. Technology: Digital tools and smart home features aren't just conveniences but now expectations.

  3. Community: Shared amenities and community vibes are central to the decision-making process.

Leverage Insights for your Builder Marketing Plan

By understanding and adapting to these insights, home builders can stay ahead in the game, meeting the needs of today's discerning buyers. We are so grateful to Laura and Zillow for traveling to Portland to share these insights with the women of the PWB Council.

To discuss applying these insights to your home builder marketing plan, contact us for a consultation.

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