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Economist says COVID will cause housing to flourish in suburbs, small towns

“How are you going to get into a high-rise office building when the mayor says you can only have four people in an elevator at one time?”
Credit: WFAA
For Sale sign.

Places like Uptown and downtown Dallas will flounder, and places like Frisco, Prosper, Celina and further-flung suburbs will flourish as the U.S. housing market adjusts to a world where COVID-19 is a reality of life.

That was one of many predictions made by Mark Dotzour, who spent 18 years as chief economist for the Texas A&M Real Estate Center, during a webinar Wednesday put on by Dallas-based HomeVestors of America.

With COVID-19 concerns and business closures — government-mandated and otherwise — people will trade urban density for more elbow room in the suburbs and exurbs, and working from home will be the norm, Dotzour said in the virtual chat about how the pandemic will affect residential real estate.

“The urban vibe just isn’t what it was anymore,” Dotzour said. “How are you going to get into a high-rise office building when the mayor says you can only have four people in an elevator at one time?”

Demand for suburban housing will rise and people will want to live in smaller towns within a 60-minute drive of major cities, Dotzour said.

In the years ahead, many more people will work from home, coming into the office perhaps only for a weekly all-hands-on-deck meeting, Dotzour said.

“It’s going to put pressure on the downtown area,” he said. “People are going to want to have a little bit of space. I see a longer-term trend here of people moving out of the big-city density into the suburbs.”

The housing market is the strongest segment of the U.S. economy, Dotzour said.

“It doesn’t surprise me that you’re selling a lot of houses,” Dotzour told HomeVestors franchisees nationwide in the webinar. “It doesn’t surprise me that the real estate professionals that I work with are telling me that they’re having good sales, too, except maybe in the highest price ranges. That (overall housing) market was strong before the COVID thing happened and it’s still strong.”

Dotzour also said 30-year fixed rate mortgages will drop to 2.5 percent. That’s about what the rate should be right now if the government had not permitted home owners to skip mortgage payments and put moratoriums on foreclosures and evictions, he said.

Overall, the economy will recover gradually, not in a V-shape, Dotzour said.

For a longer version of this story, click here.

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