The pandemic affected not only our day-to-day lives, but also trends within the U.S. economy at large. We've been paying especially close attention to the housing market, turning to the experts to see how this unprecedented time has shifted things.
A new report from Harvard is putting things into perspective — making it more clear that this is a strange time within housing. "State of the Nation's Housing 2021," released by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, includes insights into how things have changed compared to previous years.
First off, yes, the housing market was extremely active last year.
"For 2020 as a whole, existing home sales rose 5.6 percent and new single-family home sales jumped 20.4 percent," the report states. "On the strength of these gains, total home sales were at their highest level since the peak of the housing boom in 2006."
This doesn't necessarily mean there was more inventory, however. The data reportedly shows that, in fact, the amount of homes for sale was already low as 2020 started — and got even worse when the pandemic was in full swing. Specifically, "from March 2020 through March 2021, the existing home inventory shrank by about 30 percent," according to the findings.
On the other end of the spectrum, newly built single family homes were finding sellers during this time, with sales growing by 20.4% in 2020 — the highest number since 2006 as well.
But the data also captures some harsh realities about renting — millions of renters have been struggling to pay for their homes. Losses of income and other factors made it really difficult to keep up with payments during the pandemic.
"Some 20.4 million renters (46 percent) paid more than 30 percent of their incomes for housing that year, including 10.5 million (24 percent) severely burdened households that paid more than half of their incomes for rent," the report states. It also emphasizes that "a disproportionately large share of these at-risk households are renters with low incomes and people of color."
Rent increases also changed during this time; "lower-quality apartments" saw a slower rent growth. In fact, a Zillow report from 2020 actually marked year-over-year rent growth as "the slowest annual growth pace recorded since December 2017."
Still, there will likely be much more data as things open up again and the housing market shifts.
You can see the full Harvard report here.