Surprises Aplenty in the 2020 Real Estate Market!

by arlene on December 30, 2020

Surprises were commonplace in this most uncommon year. One of the first major surprises was just how quickly the real estate market transitioned from on-hold in March, to a very active market as soon as we were declared an “essential service” the beginning of April. I’m grateful for the few buyers of mine who were ready to take advantage of that brief lull, and purchased their homes for what can now be declared as relative bargains. And I’m equally grateful that my last listing benefitted from the increased demand. My lovely seller who has now relocated to Austin received a wonderfully crazy high price. Here’s hoping that the listings that I am working on now to bring on in January and February of 2021 will continue to benefit from this level of demand!

Perhaps the biggest surprise is how much 2020 felt like a normal year in real estate, when everything else around us was far from normal. The showing procedures were changed, as there were no physical open homes. And yet the basic premise was the same as it’s been for the past decade: low interest rates plus too few listings to meet too high demand, resulting in over-bidding and very high prices. Many buyers have been frustrated by that environment and so have decided to leave the…fill in the blank: county, state, or even country. And the prospect of being able to work from anywhere has opened up options for those who thought they would always be tied physically to a location near their employer.

Another surprise is how strong has been the market in what would normally be a seasonal slowdown. We held our breath for a bit around the election and the uncertainty that followed, but slowly activity increased. During the Christmas week the local market experienced a typical seasonal slowdown, but it was far more active than last year: last week 77 new listings came to market and another 31 were new coming soons. Compare that to last year when only 30 came to market. That’s a 300% increase! And I can tell you that we are seeing unusually high activity and prices for December! After a tumultuous and uncertain spring, these numbers are most certainly a gift: The total number of active listings is 49% higher than last year, and the total number of pending listings is 63% higher. Though the strength in our market is not consistent: condos are tending to sit on the market longer than pre-pandemic, as some buyers are avoiding shared facilities. I am hoping in the New Year the renewed optimism felt about our new administration will be reflected in our market.

As I spent time these past few days delivering calendars to clients who live close to me, I was struck by the disconnect between the visual images I see: many restaurants and small shops looking like they are out of business, with windows lined with paper or covered in plywood. Meantime I’m listening to the economic news: “The final week of 2020 began with stock market indexes making record highs.” I know the stock market is not the economy, and is forward looking…but driving past full homeless encampments, and knowing just how many people have been dependent on the stimulus cheques, it feels like the time must come when some balance must be reached between these extreme highs and lows. For the sake of my sellers who hope to enjoy the exuberance of this housing market, I hope it comes after their homes are happily sold!

Wishing everyone a year filled with surprises of a different kind for 2021! How about some sanity from Washington? Or some long-term positive environmental effects of the pandemic? But mostly I would so love to be surprised to hear that almost everyone is doing the right thing, and wearing their masks, socially distancing, limiting gatherings and taking the vaccine as soon as possible. That would be a wonderful surprise indeed!

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