How Covid-19 Affects the Housing Market in College Towns

Much of the activity in college towns — like Athens, Georgia, pictured — centers on the university’s events. Since Covid-19 has pushed learning online, business has dried up in many college towns. (DepositPhotos.com)

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to major lifestyle changes, including how people learn, work and play. That could significantly impact the housing market in college towns, according to HomeLight real estate agents.

Sending students home, and shifting toward remote learning, has left so-called college towns — those with economies supported largely from student activity — reeling, according to HomeLight’s Q3 Top Agent Insights Report.

As a result, small businesses in college towns have suffered from what the New York Times has called “an existential challenge”

Earlier this fall, HomeLight asked 1,157 of its top real estate agents across the country to share their thoughts on the housing market in college towns.

Here are some of the findings:

The market has held its own. Despite local business activity dipping, 82{5ad4713dcdf095b5e90aabe8844e1d4ac30f2574115e794a77015199f2c7d573} of agents in college towns say their local market hasn’t collapsed.
45{5ad4713dcdf095b5e90aabe8844e1d4ac30f2574115e794a77015199f2c7d573} say home prices and buyer activity remain strong, whereas just 6{5ad4713dcdf095b5e90aabe8844e1d4ac30f2574115e794a77015199f2c7d573} of agents say decreased local business demand and college funding cuts have hurt their housing market.

Rentals are still in demand. 30{5ad4713dcdf095b5e90aabe8844e1d4ac30f2574115e794a77015199f2c7d573} of agents say rental vacancies have not changed since the coronavirus hit in full force, and vacancies are even declining. Just 5{5ad4713dcdf095b5e90aabe8844e1d4ac30f2574115e794a77015199f2c7d573} say former rental homes have suffered due to a lack of demand.

Outcomes could turn bleak. Despite current trends, 38{5ad4713dcdf095b5e90aabe8844e1d4ac30f2574115e794a77015199f2c7d573} of agents think real estate in college towns will suffer due to a number of reasons. These include students’ shift to distance learning and canceled sports seasons, which are a top draw.
Other factors, such as uncertainty surrounding the 2020 presidential election, also could affect the market.

Infographic featuring HomeLight real estate agents' thoughts on the housing market in college towns during Covid-19

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