If this were a normal May, every weekend would be filled with potential buyers roaming homes, opening closet doors, peeking behind shower curtains, and inspecting boilers. However, this is not a normal May.
This year’s real estate market is on a pandemic-triggered radio wave. The Massachusetts Association of Realtors reported that in March the state had the lowest number of homes for sale since the organization began counting 16 years ago. The April numbers are not yet known. And with the coronavirus pandemic not over yet, there are questions about what the future holds for real estate in Massachusetts
It’s not that houses for sale aren’t bought. There just aren’t a lot of them out there.
Doriane Daniels of Vesta Real Estate Group in Holliston expects some Bay State residents to be unable to buy a home this year due to the economic impact of the shutdown.
But she said she was optimistic that the real estate market would race back by the end of the year because there is still so much more demand than supply in Massachusetts.
She expects to fill the spring, summer, and possibly fall home buying seasons with any part of the year before the snow begins to fall next winter.
“We were in business full time in 2008 when we had the banking and mortgage crisis that linked real estate, housing, mortgage, credit and banking. But that was a crisis of those industries. In this case, it’s a global crisis Health crisis, it’s not real estate health that is provoking this crisis, “Daniels said.
The only bright spot for realtors – so far – is that despite the coronavirus pandemic and fewer homes in the market, the average price for homes in Massachusetts in March was still 6 percent higher than a year ago.
But everyone’s opinion of what will happen in the months ahead, and some people aren’t as optimistic as Daniels.
Anthony Thomas is a Real Estate Teacher at the Workforce Development Center at Springfield Technical Community College. He was a home examiner for decades before becoming a teacher. He said at best, where consumer confidence is still in place and salaries haven’t come down too much, the market should pick up where it left off. But with the way things have gone, a “best-case scenario” is far from certain.
“With so much unemployment, people worried about their jobs, it’s kind of a scary market because buyers just don’t know. I’m not going to put all that money into 30 years if I’m not sure what I mean tomorrow is safe, “said Thomas.
Another depressing thought for the real estate industry is whether a four to six month break in sales could force some brokers out of business.
Tim Warren, CEO of Warren Group, which compiles data on home sales and ownership, said anything could happen, but he doesn’t see a disaster in the end.
“It’s hard to say what will happen to the industry,” he said. “There are a lot more people with licenses than are practicing at any given point in time. In bad times, when there’s not much going on, people go into hibernation. They don’t lose their interest in real estate, they have another gig. “
And “people still need a home,” said Daniels. All kinds of life changes require a new home, such as a new job or a divorce, and these events are still happening. “There are situations where buyers have to buy in this environment and sellers have to sell too. Life is still happening and that won’t change.”
But right now, the way agents sell homes has changed dramatically. You, like all of us, rely on the internet for business. And – like creating a profile for a dating app – it means people are really thinking about exposing their home online.
“At the moment, in this moment when everything is done virtually, we don’t get a second chance,” said Michelle Dalton, who is staging houses for sale. She said pictures or a virtual tour might be the only thing a potential buyer sees as they are trying to limit their exposure to other people’s homes.
“The pressure of having online galleries and virtual staging, virtual entries, Facebook lives, and so on, is really going to be important in getting everything right,” said Dalton.
Dalton said there’s a little silver lining to home orders: people may have more time to beautify their homes for sale. People like Rob and Leah Piersiak who are selling their house in Holliston and wanting to move to a bigger house closer to Rob’s place of work.
Leah said she was cleaning like crazy and Rob just can’t stop doing projects.
“We had more time to clean up clutter at home than we would have before because we were here so often,” said Leah Piersiak. “So I think, in a way, there were parts of it that were helpful.”
‘Yes,’ added Rob Piersiak, ‘and I think there is an added pressure to getting your home on the market. Now is the time to complete all the projects that you have started or have been thinking about . ”
The piersiaks may never meet the shoppers who fall in love with Rob’s new terrace – during an open house or even when it closes. Greg Vasil, CEO of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, which represents 64 cities in the Boston area, said social distancing has resulted in buyers, sellers, and their agents stop looking each other in the eyes when signing the required paperwork .
“The parties are in different rooms,” he said, “and the documents are in one room. So the party leaves one room and possibly goes to another room, signs a document and returns to their room. The other party will go.” So the parties are never in the same room at the same time. Everyone has their own pens. I’ve heard stories of closings in parking lots. ”
And that protection could go well beyond the slump in home sales.