The most common reasons people cited in choosing housing over stocks seemed to be about comfort and stability, rather than seeking a better return. The most commonly-selected responses were that the home was their “desired living environment” and “provides stability” and that house prices were “less volatile.”
Research has shown that residential real-estate has acted as a strong hedge in most bear markets, with the notable exception of the Great Recession. The early days of the pandemic is a prime example: The S&P 500 index lost over 20% in the first quarter, while the Case-Shiller National Home Price Index increased 1.4%. That stock market has, of course, recovered since then.
That said, Americans were more likely to cite higher housing returns in 2021 than in the year prior, likely a reflection of the incredibly fast pace of home price appreciation nationwide.
But people’s attitudes toward the housing market have shifted over the course of the pandemic, the researchers found. “The preference for housing dipped in October 2020 and returned back to the pre-COVID level by February 2021,” the study’s authors noted.
That shift in preferences away from housing wasn’t driven by concerns about home prices. Some Americans expressed more concern about the risk of vacant rental units, while concerns about being able to make mortgage payments may have had an effect on people’s predilection toward homeownership.
People’s inclination toward owning a home may also be a reflection of their gender or education. Women were more likely to prefer housing than men, and non-college graduates opted for homeownership more often than those with college diplomas.