Although COVID-19 is causing detrimental effects to some economic sectors, the local residential real estate market is booming. According to industry experts, 2021 is a sellers’ market.
“We've had a supply and demand challenge for the last couple of years, with more buyers than sellers, and that will continue into 2021,” said Jan Stevens, Coldwell Banker agent, adding that predictions from the National Association of REALTORS is that nationally, the market will ease up a bit. “But there will be more people who will want to put their homes on the market, so they still expect it to continue to be a sellers’ market throughout this year.”
One of the reasons for this is that mortgage rates are incredibly low. According to a Jan. 7 Forbes story, the average rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage started off the new year by breaking records as it dropped 2 basis points from the previous week to 2.65 percent. A basis point is one one-hundredth of a percentage point.
“The rates are absolutely amazing, and the indication that we're getting is that rates are still going to stay really aggressive,” said Zita Billmann, an agent for Coldwell Banker Real Estate Services. “I would say for buyers to go ahead and get pre-approved so that they know what their buying power looks like. Just calling and getting pre-approved with someone is really helpful so that buyers know their comfort level in purchasing homes.”
Another reason that people are looking to buy is that their current spaces just don’t allow the flexibility they need while working from home.
Jocelyn Bosick, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices agent, has worked with first-time home buyers who needed to expand beyond apartment living due to working remotely during the pandemic. Some of Bosick’s clients have requested separate work and school spaces, rather than open floor plans.
“It's nice to have a door here and there that you can close,” Stevens agreed. She added that people are less concerned about living close to work because they don't have to go there as often.
“We're seeing people wanting to spread out a little bit, maybe get out of the city, into the suburbs or the outer suburbs, even, because the commute isn't as much of an issue as it once was,” she explained.
Billmann agreed that the transition toward remote work has had a positive impact on the real estate market. “Everybody needs more space—two offices at home and then a place for the kids to do their homework,” she said.
She added that home buyers are seeking “bright, happy spaces,” with white kitchens, walls and floors.
Bosick has also noticed the popularity of white kitchens, in addition to those with glass-front or two-tone cabinet doors. “Homes are also adopting warmer color schemes,” she said, adding that pops of teal, red and navy brighten up gray-colored interiors.
Karla Casertano, a Coldwell Banker agent and senior real estate specialist, said minimalistic design is on trend. Wood-grain, luxury vinyl planking and porcelain tile are popular floor choices, and she recommends granite, quartz or solid surface countertops.
Likewise, home organization is key, especially for those looking to downsize. In fact, Casertano launched her own organization business after completing the National Association of REALTORS’ senior real estate training and attending virtual courses from Dorothy Breininger, certified professional organizer from A&E’s Hoarders, to help seniors organize and downsize their belongings, and clean and sell their homes.
Storage space is imperative for home organization, and Stevens said that her clients desire “storage of all kinds, but especially pantry-type storage,” as the pandemic has led people to purchase more items during fewer grocery store trips in an effort to avoid COVID-19 exposure. Moreover, people are cooking and baking at home more frequently.
In 2021, clients are also looking for homes with smart technology. For instance, home buyers may want to conserve energy utilizing smart thermostats and lighting, and if they plan on working from home, available high-speed internet service is important.
While social distancing during the pandemic, people have longed to escape to the great outdoors…even if it’s in their own backyards. This has led to a greater interest in large yards with amenities like patios, decks, outdoor kitchens, fireplaces and pits, as well as pools and hot tubs.
“I've also seen a lot of buyers wanting an acre or more, so that they have that space outside. Or they want to be near a park where they can get some exercise and outdoor activity,” said Bosick of another emerging trend. “I would think that this will probably continue because people are realizing the benefits of the outdoors, especially when they can’t get to the gym.”
Whether one is buying or selling a home, it is important to seek a qualified real estate agent’s guidance.
“To me, the best investment you can make, whether it's for your own home or if you're an investor, is to buy real estate,” said Casertano. “That's pretty much because no matter where you live, your real estate is going to go up in value.”