While a co-primary home is a second home, it's a bit different from your standard type of second home. Instead of the co-primary home being used as a weekend getaway spot or maybe a place to spend summers (or winters) like most second homes, a co-primary home takes top billing with the first primary residence. In other words, people view both homes as a primary home.
Many people, particularly those who live and work in New York City, have traditionally striven to move to a better home in the city when they could. Once they start earning more, New Yorkers often sell their first home for a bigger (relatively speaking), more expensive home in the city.
But the landscape has changed in New York (and other big cities) since COVID-19. People no longer want to be a crowded metropolis if they don't have to, and with the work-from-home phenomenon, people now realize there are other ways to live, particularly if said home in the city is a glorified closet and the whole family is stuck inside.
So instead of trading up, say, from a one- to a two-bedroom urban condo, people have been buying in the suburbs, exurbs, and rural areas in order to get a bigger home, a bit of land, and some breathing room. But instead of selling their first home, co-primary homebuyers keep their small city abode and buy another home they consider an alternate, or equal, home.
Real estate brokerage Douglas Elliman reports condo purchases in New York City were down a whopping 74% in June 2020 from the same time a year ago. But people haven't stopped buying; it's a question of where. While city purchases have decreased, the Hamptons saw an astounding 89% increase from the same period last year.
It's not just the Hamptons, either. People buying outside the city are heading to other bedroom communities, such as those in Connecticut. A once normal or sleepy real estate market there has seen bidding wars, with homes selling above asking price, mainly fueled by -- who else? -- New Yorkers.
Second homes for folks who could afford them have always been popular. But they've traditionally been viewed as a luxury purchase, in the same way people think of taking a vacation.
But now, a second co-primary home is being seen as necessary for people to work effectively from home while focusing on mental health. People are seeking beauty, nature, more living space, an outdoorsy fitness lifestyle, and affordability -- the last factor concerning both the price of the home itself and its property taxes. People just can't get all those things in urban centers; they need to move further out.
City feel is still important
Although a desire for more living space and a return to nature are behind the co-primary home market, many homeowners still like city living, complete with its vibrant energy, nightlife, restaurant and art scenes, museums, sports venues, and the like.
Suburbs that can deliver seem to fit the bill. In fact, Zillow (NASDAQ: Z) (NASDAQ: ZG) and Yelp (NYSE: YELP) have combined forces to come up with a new category that defines this trend: "Cityness Index." Towns with a city feel provide residents with the best of both worlds: an easier, less-crowded lifestyle and a bigger home for the money -- all with city amenities. Yelp reports an increase in people who live in major metros shopping for movers, packing services, and mortgage lenders from the same time last year.
The following cities and towns made the Cityness Index for 2020 (one of them is my own!):
- Waterbury, Connecticut: Typical home value: $139,304.
- Lowell, Massachusetts: Typical home value: $323,576.
- Joliet, Illinois: Typical home value: $155,018.
- Sunrise, Florida: Typical home value: $243,078.
- Pasadena, Texas: Typical home value: $168,080.
- Lancaster, California: Typical home value: $320,494.
- Hampton, Virginia: Typical home value: $188,373.
- Marietta, Georgia: Typical home value: $318,069.
- Norman, Oklahoma: Typical home value: $180,833.
- Tempe, Arizona: Typical home value: $327,963.
The Millionacres bottom line
The co-primary home movement seems to have been fueled by the coronavirus, as people want to get out of big cities and back to nature while living in comfort as they work from home. What will happen in the future remains to be seen regarding whether people will start returning to the office, possibly tiring of maintaining their big homes. But for now, co-primary homes are hot.