New Realtor.com research spotlights Asian Americans’ unique barriers to achieving the dream of homeownership and associated struggles during the pandemic.
“Our analysis shows the Asian American homeownership gap persists, underscoring the significant racial disparities that still exist in real estate today,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com. “Despite this community having some of the highest education and income levels in the country, many continue to face barriers,”
She added, “Home buying trends since the onset of Covid do highlight some promising progress among Asian Americans, particularly those who fall into additional marginalized categories like women and younger age groups. However, these gains followed a more sluggish period for Asian buyers early in the pandemic, a time that coincided with an increased number of hate crimes against the community. These difficult events may have partially deterred some Asian buyers from pursuing homes in more affordable areas like smaller cities and suburbs. ”
The outbreak of the pandemic changed the trajectories of Asian American home buyers. During the first half of the year, the buying pace of Asian American home buyers slowed significantly, ultimately lagging behind their non-Asian counterparts over this period.
The average Asian American home sales index (HSI), a leading indicator of housing activity, dropped to 109.5, 8.1% lower than pre-pandemic levels and 9.5% lower than their non-Asian peers. The immense increase in anti-Asian crimes may have halted the home buying process for some.
Fears of being isolated from larger Asian American communities by moving to more affordable areas like smaller cities and the suburbs likely took otherwise viable options off of the table, derailing plans. For example, between March and September 2020, 67 anti-Asian hate crime events were reported in California, the state with the highest Asian American population, a 139% increase from the same period in 2019.
Although Asian American home buyers experienced significant challenges, they are the group that had the largest homeownership rate increase in recent years. For example, between the fourth quarter of 2020 and the fourth quarter of 2021, the homeownership rate of Asian American households increased from 59.5% to 61.2%, up 1.7 percentage points, while all other racial groups saw homeownership rate declines over the same period.
The impact of the pandemic was felt relatively equally by male and female Asian American buyers, with male and female average HSIs of 98 and 103, respectively, between March and July 2020, down significantly from pre-pandemic. However, post pandemic, Asian American female home buying recovered more quickly than for Asian American males.
In June 2021, Asian American home buying peaked for both males and females. Asian American females saw a peak HSI of 197.3, nearly two times the rate of home buying as compared to the baseline in March 2019, and almost two times the rate in June 2020.
On average, between July 2020 and December 2021, Asian American females had an HSI 8% higher (157) than Asian American males (145.5). This means that the growth rate in home purchases by Asian American females grew more than that for males and that the gap widened in the housing market’s pandemic recovery.
Realtor.com’s name-matched deed records showed similar trends: the share of Asian American home buyers among all buyers jumped from 3.7% (2020) to 4.6% (2021). In addition, Asian American home buyers rebounded faster than non-Asian American peers after October 2020. The average HSI for Asian buyers jumped to 154 between October 2020 and December 2021, 30.8% higher than their pre-pandemic levels and 19.6% faster than non-Asian peers.
One potential explanation Realtor.com gives for the strong rebound is that Asian American home buyers have higher motivations to take advantage of the historically low mortgage rates.
According to a recent financial study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Asian American borrowers generally live in relatively expensive metro areas, resulting in higher average loan amounts than their peers. Therefore, the historically low mortgage rates might have been more attractive to Asian buyers, which eventually led to a higher pace of home sales.