“We’re all searching for our data to confirm our bias, or our theory, that people are moving out of the city into the suburbs,” Barton said on “Squawk on the Street.” “We get 100 million clicks a day in our apps and sites, so we can see all this shopping data, and we’re not really seeing that yet.”
To be sure, Barton said Zillow is seeing significant increases in people looking for homes on its platforms. Shopping traffic to for-sale homes is up 50% year over year, Barton said.
“What we’re seeing is lots more activity and a lot of dissatisfaction with where people are living right now,” he said. “But … our economics team can’t really point their finger at an overriding pattern” geographically.
Barton, a longtime Netflix board member who also started Expedia, said Zillow has seen a week-by-week recovery in transactions since the coronavirus pandemic put a damper on real estate activity in late March and early April. Purchases have not returned to normal levels, Barton said, but it is “almost an abnormal market” right now due to people’s interest in moving.
“Our economists team sees a slow but steady return of transactions towards the end of the year, to what they estimate, is just over 90% of what normal would have been by December,” Barton said.
The Covid-19 outbreak has caused widespread upheaval to daily life in the U.S. as millions of Americans began to work from home to slow the spread of the virus. Although the long-term effects of the crisis are unknown, some in the real estate industry say they have noticed a shift in the places people want to live.
Robert Reffkin, CEO of real estate brokerage Compass, told CNBC last week that the company saw a 40% increase in searches on its website for single-family homes while those for condominiums and co-ops had decreased.
“I think this is going to be a continuous shift until there’s a vaccine” for Covid-19, said Reffkin, who added that more people were looking at less-dense areas.
Barton said Zillow also has noticed a shift in priorities of clients through surveys. He said that two-thirds of respondents who have been working from home because of the pandemic say they would like continue doing so, either on a permanent basis or only commuting to the office a few days each week.
“I think it’s going to change the calculus for the traditional, high-rise, elevator-based, dense-packed city workplace, at least,” he said. “I’m not quite sure about residence yet.”
Shares of Zillow were lower Friday, down 0.5% at about $57 each. The stock notched a 52-week high of $66.68 on Feb. 20 before falling dramatically as the Covid-19 crisis intensified. It sank to $20.04 per share on March 18, rising more than 180% since.