Pandemic Continues to Affect Real Estate Market
In prior years, a typical spring real estate market in Middlesex County meant an uptick in activity by both sellers and buyers as soon as the snow melted in March. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, that’s not what’s forecast for this spring, according to Jed Backus, president of the Board of Directors for the New Haven Middlesex Association of Realtors.
“Spring has typically been the busiest market with the most inventory coming on for a variety of reasons. That’s been consistent for many years. This year is different, as it’s been in many ways, and the real estate market is a bit different,” said Backus.
Inventory statewide is currently at 50 percent of normal levels, he said, adding that low inventory is something “that we’ve been dealing with for close to a year now and it continues.”
What he describes as “pandemic factors” are contributing to the low stock of housing.
They include sellers being hesitant to invite prospective buyers into their homes because of the virus and travel restrictions with mandatory quarantines, which pose challenges to relocating, according to Backus.
“Conversely, I would just say that demand, if there has been any reduction in demand, it’s hard to see because demand is greater than supply right now, so it’s a very competitive market,” said Backus. “It’s a seller’s market.
“We’re seeing increased activity across the board,” he continued. “There are simply more people looking to buy across all [housing] types—that includes condominiums, single-family homes, and multi-family homes.”
The data confirms an upward tick in real estate sales in Chester, Deep River, and Essex.
Sales in Chester increased by 8 percent, from 51 in 2019 to 55 in 2020, according to a Market Watch 2020 Year in Review report from William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty.
In Deep River, it was 65 in 2019 and 62 in 2020, a 5 percent reduction; Essex had 107 in sales for 2019 and 152 in sales for 2020, a 42 percent increase, according to the Market Watch report.
The median selling price also increased for Chester, by 11 percent and for Essex, 10 percent. Deep River’s selling price saw a reduction of 7 percent, according to the Market Watch data.
In 2021, there are already indications of a fast-paced, competitive market.
Chester is seeing a reduction in the number of days that a single-family home stays on the market, 131 days in January 2020 versus 41 days in January 2021, according to Smart MLS.
In Deep River, the data shows 285 days on the market in January 2020 versus 125 days in January 2021; in Essex, it’s 103 days on the market in January 2020 versus 56 days in January 2021, according to Smart MLS.
Yolanda Tine Lowe, a realtor for William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty in Essex, said that she is working with buyers to be ready to place an offer “the minute a house goes on the market.”
She said “buyers, especially first-time buyers, they need to be prepared emotionally, ‘Can I make a decision just like that?’ which is an education part.”
Since the pandemic started last year, Lowe says that she’s used an increased variety of virtual tools to conduct business, which is a trend across the state.
“Our state association and our local association have taken great efforts to educate and inform our realtors on how to conduct business safely throughout this environment,” said Backus.
He added that realtors are adhering to state safety protocols such as increased cleaning and use of personal protective equipment. They’re also using 3D tours and platforms such as FaceTime to conduct showings.
Backus said that he expects the “seller’s market” to continue well into 2021.
“I see that basic trend continuing and I think that those pandemic factors, they will outweigh the influence of the normal cyclical spring market,” said Backus.
“Then you get a cyclical slowdown in summer when everybody goes on vacation. Will that happen this year? Your guess is as good as mine, [but] probably not. And then there is a pickup again and a typical slow down around the holidays…Again that didn’t really happen in the same way las year that it normally would,” he continued.