Coronavirus dramatically transformed the real estate market over the past two months. Spring 2020 was gearing up to be hot and active, with much of our lingering 2019 inventory being absorbed early in the year. We experienced activity even in the highest price points in the market. Many of our own listings sold.
Even before Governor Baker’s stay-at-home order, fear of COVID-19 slowed down showings and prevented open houses. The changes affected urban markets first, and within a week in mid-March, the Greater Boston real estate market quieted dramatically. In order to reduce the risk of transmission, buyers paused their search and many sellers removed their houses from the market or paused preparations to list. This resulted in a shrinking supply. From March until now mid-May, fewer houses came on the market.
But, surprisingly, many houses that had been listed prior to the pandemic were snatched up by buyers who’d seen them already. Then, for some houses (including Jessica’s own house) that came on during the early days of the pandemic, multiple offer situations occurred. While it hasn’t been the frenzy we’d have likely seen in the spring of 2020 without the pandemic, it has been a steady flow of purchases by buyers eager to escape the city. Those buyers have outstripped listings, so we still have a very tight market.
COVID-19’s Impact on the Market
The market impact has been the most profound in the suburbs. This sampling of five markets shows inventory at record or near-record lows compared to the prior four years. Looking back, these five towns have a fairly steady number of year-to-date sales and simply fewer houses being listed.
It’s a truly remarkable shift, with inventory down so substantially compared to the average of the prior four years. Weston’s inventory of single-family homes is down 56%! Concord’s is down 51%! Lincoln is down 35% and Wayland is down 25%. Interestingly, Lexington is only down 11%.
In Arlington, the shift looks more suburban, with a plunge of 40% in single-family inventory. Further west, Acton is down 39%, and Sudbury’s inventory is down a whopping 68%!
This trend is reflected across some more urban markets but not others, with Somerville’s inventory down 43%, Boston’s single-family inventory down 37%, but Cambridge’s up 30% over the prior four years. In those more urban markets, the condo market is much less impacted, with inventory up a hair in Boston and Cambridge, but down 18% in Somerville.
This lines up with what we’re seeing, sellers holding off to see what happens (and keep their yard) and buyers eager to get out to the suburbs. This may be an indication of a substantial trend back towards acreage and home amenities that will persist after the pandemic.
How Business Has Changed
Our early responses included being sure we had Matterport Tours done of all our listings so folks could explore virtually. We increased our social medial marketing. We screened buyers and their agents for serious interest and encouraged folks to drive by first. But, people won’t buy homes they haven’t experienced, so we have continued to show homes while wearing masks and gloves and asking others to do the same. We ask our sellers to wipe down all handles, nobs, switches, and railings as a precaution. We all know there’s no totally safe way to share spaces.
We’ve started leveraging social media for virtual open houses and just this weekend posted our first in-person, no-appointment-required, open house. We work together as a team to:
- Only allow one group through at a time
- Require masks
- Sanitize hands prior to entry, even if visitors are wearing gloves
- Ask folks not to touch anything and to keep anyone (i.e. kids) who might have difficulty with that rule to stay outside.
People do need to sell and to buy in this trying time, and we’re doing the very best we can to minimize the risks involved.
We are lucky to be part of such a loving and caring community! We joined a cheer parade through local retirement communities last week and it was a blessing to plant those memories of this time.
We also delivered some hot-pink geraniums to recent clients, hoping to spread a little spring-time color. We’re also deeply grateful to have access to the outdoors! Perhaps you’ve just discovered Lincoln by landing here for a walk in the woods. Welcome!