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We all had assumptions during the initial outbreak of COVID-19 about how the pandemic would impact housing. Buyers were expected to insist on larger homes to accommodate stay-at-home activities, big backyards, and more space between neighbors.

Available attached product was going to sell regardless due to extremely tight inventory in the Seattle MSA. But how would it stack against the single-family detached market amid a global pandemic?

Here at Zonda, we are equipped with real-time market data to either confirm a thesis or debunk an assumption of what is actually taking place on the ground. Let’s evaluate the market performance of new attached product in a time of shifting paradigms and a flurry of sales.

All data presented are parsed into three buckets:

  • Pre-Pandemic (January 2019–February 2020)
  • Shutdown (March–April 2020)
  • COVID Market (May–December 2020)

King County

King County jumped 10% in monthly sales of attached product during the initial shutdown in the spring. Shutdown sales occurred in large urban condo buildings, such as Mira Flats in Bellevue and Nexus in Seattle. Pending sales were also brisk for luxe townhomes in the Eastside and the pastoral setting of Duvall in The Ridge at Big Rock.

The momentum of monthly sales rate continued to close out 2020 with an array of attached product, appealing to the entire swath of buyer profiles. Luxury buyers snagging up $1 million-plus townhomes at Lario in Bellevue, the entry-level home buyer at Sunridge Townhomes in Kent, and active adults in the 55-plus community of Meadowridge at Maple Centre.

Pierce County

In Pierce County, Lennar is clearly in the driver’s seat with attached market share and today’s COVID market, just as it was pre-pandemic. Their townhome offering at the master plan community of Tehaleh has a sales clip of 6.4 per month since opening in May.

Richmond American Homes recently joined the party in Tehaleh with its own attached community. We can safely conclude there’s plenty of demand for more product if builders can find the dirt in Pierce County.

Snohomish County

Snohomish County sales for new attached homes were halved during the government shutdown in Washington state. But once showings and construction resumed, activity rebounded to a healthy 57 sales per month for new attached homes.

The usual suspects of D.R. Horton and Pulte claim a bulk of the new attached home sales in Snohomish. Toll Brothers' 220 Towns at Canyon Park has also made a favorable impression on buyers looking for a more premium townhome. Westcott Homes had a whopping 34 sales in the fourth quarter at its community in Lake Stevens.

Comparison With Single-Family Detached

So how does the attached market compare with single-family detached during the COVID market?

The accompanying chart compares the percentage increase of monthly sales rate between attached and detached. Clearly, we see attached sales rate capitalized on the home buying frenzy in Puget Sound.

An interesting question to ask in future analysis is how much did the historically low inventory compel an attached buyer to “settle”?

Conclusions

  • Buyers aren’t beholden to backyards during the pandemic.
  • Buyers will seek townhomes farther away from the urban cores of Seattle and Bellevue.
  • We can expect builders to increase development of attached communities across the Seattle MSA, wherever land deals can be found.
  • While inventory is very low across the region, the product profile of attached housing appeals to the entire spectrum of buyer profiles.
  • The sales data dispels any assumption that attached housing didn’t realize its fair market share during the 2020 buying bonanza in Puget Sound.