A comercial real estate broker in New York City says the COVID-19 pandemic has hit every sector in the city and it could “take years to get back to nornal.” (May 15) AP Domestic
Right before coronavirus hit in March, real estate agents were prepping for their busiest time of year: spring.
“We were just gearing up for our biggest season,” said Robin Hall, a top-selling agent for Coldwell Banker Hickok & Boardman.
Then the pandemic arrived. Gov. Phil Scott announced his “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order. And the real estate business, largely, came to a screeching halt.
Real estate agents weren’t allowed to show listed properties except virtually. In-person home inspections and appraisals were also put on pause and town clerk offices closed.
“It was a difficult process,” said Staige Davis, the CEO of Four Seasons Sotheby’s International Realty.
Unlike the Great Recession in 2008, this nationwide crisis has affected people on both sides of the table, Hall said.
“It sidelined buyers and sellers. They are under different set of circumstances that make it difficult to decide whether they should sell or buy,” Hall said.
Homes-for-sale show signs of bouncing back
According to data from the Northern Vermont Board of Realtors, new listings for April over the last year have decreased 48.2% and pending sales dropped 27.3% for single-family homes. Meanwhile, the median sales price rose 9.3% to $320,500.
Additionally, inventory decreased 27.3%, and the average days on market fell 11.6% or to 61 days for single-family homes.
In Chittenden County, April for-sale listings dropped 14.7% from a year ago for all residential properties but were up 4.2% from March.
“I would say in Chittenden County, there is less than 40 days of inventory based on absorption right now,” Davis said. “That’s not great for people who are looking for choices, but there is more coming on the market.”
But since Scott eased restrictions on businesses, Hall and Davis, who spoke to the Free Press for this story in mid-May, said the market has bounced back. And it remains strong because of high demand due to low inventory and as mortgage rates continue to drop at historic rates.
“We’ve sold houses sight unseen, and we’ve had multiple offers on houses without people ever having been inside,” said Davis, noting a Florida man is under contract for a 23-acre property in Northeast Kingdom.
“We haven’t seen prices drop. Sellers are getting what they anticipated before COVID,” Hall said.
Virtual home tours
Although real estate agents still face obstacles — non-Vermont residents can’t physically tour homes unless they quarantine for 14 days — the out-of-state business could yield an uptick in the real estate market in the coming months.
New age 3D virtual tours have enhanced buyers’ experience, and the state’s reaction to combating the virus could potentially make Vermont an intriguing relocation spot. Davis said his company’s web traffic has seen a considerable boost from New York, Boston and even California residents.
“Vermont doesn’t have a huge boom or bust history because we are slow to develop compared to a lot of other places,” Davis said. “But I think they will create a small boom like we experienced after 9/11.”
The real estate market has weathered COVID’s initial wave, Hall said, but uncertainty remains at the forefront.
“We don’t know what’s ahead for the fall. The unemployment issue will have a greater impact at some point,” Hall said. “We have a naturally socially distance environment that you wouldn’t have in one of the cities hit hard by the pandemic.”
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