Web Visits to For-Sale Listings Rebounding as Spring Unfolds

Web Visits to For-Sale Listings Rebounding as Spring Unfolds

Web Visits to For-Sale Listings Rebounding as Spring Unfolds

  • Page views on for-sale listings on Zillow fell as much as 19% year-over-year in mid-March, but have rebounded sharply since then.
  • Traffic on listings in some metros have recovered more quickly, including Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas and Atlanta.

Web traffic to for-sale home listings on Zillow fell off dramatically in mid-March as the U.S. coronavirus outbreak began in earnest and stay-at-home orders were expanded, effectively shuttering large parts of the economy. But by mid-April, overall visits to for-sale homes had rebounded to levels — perhaps surprisingly — that are actually slightly higher than a year ago.

In early March, the market was still looking forward to the impending busy spring home shopping season. Market fundamentals were largely strong, and traffic to for-sale listings was higher than it was at the same time a year ago. But starting March 11, web traffic began to slide. Even in a month jam-packed with bad news, that date stands out. On March 11, the World Health Organization officially classified the coronavirus outbreak as a global pandemic; President Trump announced a travel ban from Europe as part of a televised national address; and the National Basketball Association cancelled the rest of its season. Over the next week and a half, culminating on March 22, traffic to homes listed for sale on Zillow dropped by almost a fifth compared to the comparable week in 2019.

But not every market dropped in tandem. In Seattle, home to Zillow headquarters and site of some of the first known U.S. cases of community transmission of the novel coronavirus, traffic was below-normal as early as February.

The New York metro area, now home to the nation’s biggest outbreak, has experienced some of the biggest daily traffic declines: It fell more than 30% for the 7-day period ending March 22, and remained down about 24% in the first week of April. The most recent available data, for the 7 days ended April 13, show New York still down about 8%. Late-March/early-April traffic to listings in the Boston area, also currently grappling with one of the nation’s largest outbreaks, fell more than 20% by the week ending March 20 and remained below that depressed level through April 8, when it began to recover toward normal levels.

San Francisco experienced a more acute drop than Boston, down about 28% for the week ending March 22 and subsequent 7-day windows through March 26. But it recovered steadily soon after that, and in the week ending April 13 verage traffic was higher than the same week in 2019.

The traffic dropoff was less severe in Los Angeles, with a nadir 20% lower than 2019 for the week beginning March 16, the same day the LA Department of Public health issued an order prohibiting gatherings of 50 or more. But traffic to Los Angeles-area listings on Zillow subsequently rebounded quickly, and has actually been substantially higher year-over-year through the first two weeks of April.

It’s a similar story in Minneapolis, which was experiencing strong year-over-year growth in traffic in the days prior to March 11, before dropping off sharply. Minneapolis’ biggest one-week drop in traffic also came on the week starting March 16, the day Minnesota Governor Tim Walz ordered restaurants, bars and other public gathering areas closed. But by mid-April, Zillow traffic was up by double-digits in the twin cities.

While traffic to listings in some markets still remains down from a year ago, the national total has rebounded significantly, up 13% year-over-year for the week ending April 13. In fact, in 30 of the 35 largest metro areas, web traffic to for-sale listings was up year-over-year during the second week of April. Of those large markets, only the Pittsburgh, Detroit, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York City metro areas continue to show depressed traffic.

It’s impossible to know precisely what’s driving this recent spike in traffic: It could be coming from optimistic buyers hoping to get an early jump on their plans as soon as restrictions are lifted, or simply from aspirational viewers stuck at home and seeking an escape through real estate. Early data on home sales show significant drops in mortgage purchase applications in March, so one simple explanation could be that many of the home shoppers who would have bought in March are still on the sidelines, keeping tabs on the market alongside everyone who began eyeing Zillow listings in April.

We do know this April turnaround does not reflect positive economic news. In the four weeks from March 15 through April 11, roughly 22 million Americans filed claims for unemployment assistance, or almost 15% of all workers who were otherwise employed as recently as the middle of March. The total scale of the economic slowdown is not yet clear, but it is almost certain that more people will soon be out of work for an indeterminate period of time.

Methodology

All page view events of for-sale homes on Zillow.com and the Zillow app are tabulated by day and the listing’s ZIP code, and then aggregated to day and MSA. Figures are presented as rolling 7-day trailing averages to smooth out daily noise. Page views exclude real estate agents and other professional users on Zillow. Year-over-year comparisons are done after offsetting 2019 data by 2 days, in order to compare the same days of the week, e.g. we compare Sunday, March 29, 2020 with Sunday, March 31, 2019.

 

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