Upper Valley real estate still strong, albeit at arm’s length

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    Red and white "Sale Pending, Home for Sale" sign in front of a stone, wood house that is for sale and has recently been sold. Green grass and bushes indicate the spring or summer season. Front porch and windows in background. Real estate signs in residential neighborhood. Moving house, relocation concepts. fstop123

Valley News
Published: 6/1/2020 5:39:53 PM

Maybe this is why Missouri is called the Show-Me State.

In a sign how the COVID-19 pandemic is rippling through the New Hampshire and Vermont real estate market, views of Twin State home listings on the website of Four Seasons Sotheby’s soared more than 1,100% in Missouri during the first five months of the year, according to data compiled by the Hanover office of the national real estate agency.

Echoing how Northern New England saw a wave of homebuyers seeking the perceived safety of a rural place to live following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, COVID-19 appears to be having a similar effect, the data and anecdotal reports suggest.

Missouri, where views from unique visitors went from 229 in 2019 to 2,828 in 2020, is only the most pronounced example as home seekers from other states for Twin States properties have also shot up, including Washington (309%), Massachusetts (74%), California and New Jersey (59% each), New York (31%), Texas (19%) and Oregon (16%), the data shows.

“There are a number of dynamics going on here,” said Alan DiStasio, chief operating officer of Four Seasons Sotheby’s in Hanover. “Certainly COVID-19 has incentivized people who live in densely populated urban areas who may be looking for places with more open spaces to live. With millions of people working from home and a number of companies now realizing that’s doable, people are saying, ‘If I can work from home two to three to five days a week, maybe I don’t have to live so close to the office.’ ”

When it comes to the housing market, this is not a typical recession, according to real estate professionals.

With an estimated 20% of people unemployed and the country in the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some might expect that real estate sales would have collapsed and homeowners seen the value of their homes plummet.

That’s what happened in the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, which started when the housing bubble burst, and home prices tumbled and took nearly a decade to recover.

But despite much of the economy still being shut down and business slowed due to the pandemic, the Upper Valley housing market has not – not yet anyway – gone into a nosedive, report local real estate professionals. While social distancing has led to new wrinkles in how homes are marketed and sold, the industry nonetheless has used technology to help overcome the hurdles.

Laird Bradley, owner of the Williamson Group Sotheby’s real estate agency in Woodstock, said that demand for homes, in part driven by out-of-state homebuyers, remains strong.

The issue, rather, he said, is a shortage of inventory. He currently has 60 properties for sale, of which 20 are under contract, compared with 100 listings and 10 under contract at this time last year. The increase in the ratio of homes under contract to homes listed indicates demand outstripping supply.

“In 2009 we went six months without a single arm’s-length transaction in Woodstock and surrounding towns,” Bradley said. “We are not in that kind of market.”

Without a doubt the real estate market took a hit in New Hampshire in April as a result of the business shutdown, according to data compiled by New Hampshire Realtors, the state’s association of real estate agents.

New listings of single-family homes for sale plunged 40% and pending sales declined 21% during the four weeks of April, the group reported. But the median sales price for a single-family home in New Hampshire increased 11.5% to $325,000.

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