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Think Home Prices Have Gone Crazy Since the Pandemic? Try Purchasing a Puppy By Realtor.com

By Clare Trapasso | May 12, 2021

Just about everyone knows it’s not a great time to be a home buyer right now. Thanks to the extreme inventory shortage, competition is fierce—and home prices have shot up by double digits since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s crazy. Could anything be harder to buy these days?

Well, yes, actually. Those who think the housing market is tough these days should try getting a puppy.

The run-up in home prices inspired Realtor.com® to look at how much prices on a variety of everyday things have changed since the world first went under lockdown. And we quickly confirmed that it wasn’t just home prices that shot up wildly over the past year.

Who could forget the great toilet paper shortage of early 2020, which led to price gouging and $10 rolls? Or when everyone decided—at the same time—to learn how to bake sourdough bread, leading to a run on baking supplies? And there were all those folks who suddenly weren’t going out anymore and working from home for the first time, and longed for a canine companion to love.

“Our preference changes that resulted from the pandemic caught suppliers off guard,” says Ali Wolf, chief economist at building consultancy Zonda. “No company bred more dogs or harvested more apples or built more homes in anticipation of demand going up so much so quickly. All of the things that are posting price increases are in short supply.”

The housing market may be hot, but puppies are even more in demand.(Realtor.com)

The competition over the limited supply of homes for sale has been fierce, especially as the number coming on the market dropped as the pandemic wore on. But the fight to secure a puppy was even worse. Would-be pet parents found local rescue shelters empty and encountered yearslong waiting lists from breeders.

The shortage of puppies has also fueled a booming black market for the most in-demand breeds. Remember the French bulldogs stolen from Lady Gaga‘s dog walker, who was shot trying to protect the pups? The animals were believed to have been snatched so the thieves could resell them for thousands of dollars.

“The things that are up in demand and price all relate to nesting,” says Wolf. “You’re at home more, maybe doing more domestic activities. Before the pandemic, maybe you were unsure if you had enough time for the dog—and now you have nothing but time.”

That could explain why prices for pure-bred puppies were up 36% in 2020 compared with the previous year, according to PuppySpot. The online marketplace connects vetted and inspected breeders with families looking for lovable, fur babies.

“It has been a stressful year in America,” says PuppySpot CEO Jonathan Cherins. “Puppies make the world a better place.”

But plenty of other core items saw a big price boost, too.

Gas was up 11.9%, and core food items such as apples and beef also rose during the pandemic as folks started noticing their grocery bills got a little larger. Car sales fell at the beginning of the health crisis, but picked up toward the end of the year, giving prices a boost.

Meanwhile, it wasn’t surprising to see hotel and airline ticket prices fell during the pandemic, by minus 21.3% and minus 29.9% respectively. Many cities and states issued stay-at-home orders at the start of the crisis, while many avid travelers opted to stay home out of fear of contracting the virus.

“The economy has been broken out into winners and losers. The losers are the service sector, such as tourism and hospitality,” says Wolf. “But they’re also the sectors that are coming back to life with the vaccines and economies reopening across the country.”

* Puppy prices were calculated as average prices of purebred dogs on PuppySpot in 2019 compared with 2020. Median home list prices were year-over-year increases nationally from February 2020 to February 2021, according to Realtor.com data. Gas prices were the average per gallon on March 2, 2020, compared with March 1, 2021, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Apple prices were compared in February 2020 and February 2021, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. Car prices were average transaction prices in March 2020 compared with March 2021 from Edmunds. Beef prices compared the average price per pound from February 2020 to February 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hotel prices looked at the average U.S. nightly room rate in 2019 versus 2020, according to STR. Airline ticket prices compared the third quarter of 2019 to the third quarter of 2020, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.