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Zillow sees traffic spike amid early months of pandemic

Amanda Pendleton, Zillow Home Trends Expert and Yahoo Finance’s Jen Rogers to discuss how "Zillow surfing" is having a moment amid COVID-19.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

ZACK GUZMAN: All right, so in today's Real Estate Report, we're opening there with that, not an actual commercial from Zillow, but just the latest from the folks at "Saturday Night Live," highlighting what a lot of Americans out there are doing in terms of maybe dreaming about homes in other markets. And for more on that, I want to bring on the real Zillow here with us today. Zillow home trends expert Amanda Pendleton joins the show alongside Yahoo Finance's Jen Rogers to break all this down.

And Amanda, you guys recently broke down which housing markets are getting the most attention when it comes to maybe what we just saw there in admiration and excitement. So which markets are those? And what are you seeing on Zillow now?

AMANDA PENDLETON: So first of all, Zillow has seen this huge spike in traffic, which the SNL skit alluded to. Zillow had 9.6 billion page visits to its website and to its app in 2020. And that was up 1.5 billion from 2019, so a ton of interest in Zillow surfing right now. And of the 100 largest metros in the country, every single one of them saw an increase in traffic. Now, of those 100 largest metros, the top three that we saw were Las Vegas, Stamford, Connecticut, and Austin, Texas.

AKIKO FUJITA: Amanda, what's interesting about that "SNL" skit is I think so many of us can allude to the fact that I have also been surfing Zillow throughout the pandemic. And yet, you look at some of these cities. And you think, well, I wish I could live in that city because the price is so much lower than where I actually want to live. And I wonder when you talk about the traction some of these markets have gotten, how much of that actually translates into sales? Do you have any specific data on that?

AMANDA PENDLETON: Well, we know that Zillow surfing is not exactly a coincidence, right? We were watching in our data traffic to Zillow really start to surge during the pandemic. And we also saw home sales surge as well. And it's no coincidence, right? There are demographic and pandemic-led factors that are driving people to both surf Zillow but also to move and to buy homes.

So you have millennials, which is the largest generational group in the country. And they're aging into their home buying years. They're hitting their mid-30s. They want to settle down. They want to buy a home.

And then the pandemic-led factors, right, a trend we call the break reshuffling. As we've all been kind of stuck in our homes, we've been looking around our homes and wondering if they're really meeting all of our needs in this new normal. And then you layer in remote work, which has suddenly opened up housing options all over the country. And combined, you've just got this huge group of people who are rethinking where and how they want to live.

And tech is really enabling them to do a lot of that. And that's kind of where Zillow comes in. Real estate tech is allowing people to tour these homes that may be thousands of miles away virtually. And it's allowing a lot of these transactions to close remotely too. And that's making the real estate process not only safer, but it's making it faster and easier. And that's why we think it's going to stick around long past the pandemic.

JENNIFER ROGERS: So when you look at where people are looking-- I mean, I've Zillow surfed some of these areas too. I mean, I'd like to go to Miami or Honolulu. How many people, though, are actually converting to buyers? And how many people are just like me, sitting here and kind of dreaming?

AMANDA PENDLETON: [CHUCKLES] So it's really hard to kind of pin down the exact number. What we are seeing in our data is that homes have been flying off the marked. And that's all over the country. The median time that a home goes on the market and then goes to pending is 17 days as of December. That's 25 days faster than a year ago.

Zillow's economists are also forecasting that home values are going to increase by 10% over the next year. So we're seeing this huge interest in the housing market that is translating into sales. Home sales were up 15% last year. And we're expecting home sales to climb to their highest point in nearly 40 years over 2021. So there is momentum. And it really is happening across the board.

JENNIFER ROGERS: So we've been looking at the top 10 areas where you're seeing growth. What about in terms of growth where those searches are originating from? Let's just take New York City. What can you tell us about people looking from New York? Where are they looking?

AMANDA PENDLETON: So I'll actually give you a quiz here. Where do you think is the top destination for people searching from New York?

JENNIFER ROGERS: I mean, I'm going to say Miami, just because I want to go there. But it's going to be something boring, right? Is this a trick question? Is it like New Jersey?

AMANDA PENDLETON: It is a trick question. It's actually New York. A vast majority of New Yorkers want to stay local and want to stay within the metro area. But beyond that, they're looking at Philly, Stamford, and then, yes, Miami. So Jen, you're in good company.

JENNIFER ROGERS: I guess I did OK on the quiz.

[LAUGHTER]

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, I mean, it was a trick question. So you did all right there, Jen. When we think about pricing too because, mean, you were talking about millennials. And that seems to be one where I'm already hearing anecdotal evidence of maybe people getting beat out, even bidding above asking price here, particularly for those first-time homebuyers. And that would seem to me to be kind of one of those areas to watch, maybe when we start to see this slow down a bit. What are you kind of seeing in terms of early indications of how much steam is left in this pandemic boost?

AMANDA PENDLETON: So the largest driver of demand was actually around prior to the pandemic. It's that huge generation of millennials aging into their home buying years. We expect that to drive demand for many years to come. And when you think about millennials, they grew up with the internet. They expect everything to be available with the touch of a button, in their palm too. And they expect that of the real estate transaction too. So a lot of these tech tools that have been adopted really rapidly during the pandemic, they're likely going to stick around, just because they're being driven by that consumer demand.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, it is incredible to see how quickly these homes are getting snatched up. I can tell you, oftentimes I look at these sites, these homes on Zillow. And already, you see a pending sign. So you know that price is pretty attractive. Amanda, great to have you on today. Amanda Pennington is Zillow home trends expert. And our thanks to Jen Rogers as well for joining in on the conversation.