City's housing market health correlates to economic resilience to COVID-19 – report

by Ryan Smith22 Jul 2020

A city’s housing market performance during the COVID-19 crisis is correlated with its economy’s resilience, according to a new report by home co-investing company Unison.

Resilient industrial sectors – “where businesses have been able to maintain productivity during the pandemic and adapt to the market environment,” according to Unison – have seen a higher level of job stability. Sectors like financial services and information technology, in which many people can work remotely, are resilient. Vulnerable sectors like retail, manufacturing and hospitality, however, have seen much more severe levels of job loss.

 “Historically, cities with high concentrations of jobs in resilient industrial sectors experience the quickest recovery in housing prices,” said Bridie Gray, Unison’s vice president of research. “Furthermore, as a result of shelter-in-place orders, the home has become a center for commercial and retail activity. Working and shopping from home are the new norm. real estate capital is beginning a circular rotation out of undiversified retail and commercial spaces like malls and office buildings. Investing in diversified residential real estate, with a tilt toward resilient cities, will provide institutional investors better, more balanced exposure to the US economy.”

In previous recessions, increases in unemployment have usually correlated with drops in home prices – and the two factors are geographically linked, according to the report. For example, during the Great Recession, Las Vegas saw a 10% spike in unemployment and a 62% drop in housing prices. Dallas, which saw only a 4% rise in unemployment, posted a 10% drop in housing prices.

“Cities that have high proportions of jobs in vulnerable sectors have also seen huge unemployment spikes during COVID-19, meaning Las Vegas and other cities like it will likely experience similar drops in housing prices again,” Unison said. “Furthermore, cities that depend on these at-risk industries will likely experience slower job recoveries and more challenging housing markets.”

Las Vegas was rated the most vulnerable city, followed by Miami, Detroit and San Diego. Boston was listed as the most resilient, along with Washington, D.C., San Francisco and New York.

“Job resilience is one of the key drivers of housing demand in both the short and long term,” said Thomas Sponholtz, CEO of Unison.