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March 20, 2020

Realtors say home buying interest falling amid COVID-19 crisis

Home buying interest nationally has been cut in half due to economic uncertainty amid the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, a new survey shows.

About 48% of more than 3,000 members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) surveyed on Monday and Tuesday said buyer interest is decreasing as cases of COVID-19 mount across the country.

That’s up significantly from a week earlier when 16% of NAR members said buying interest was waning. 

The survey comes as COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed in all 50 U.S. states and territories to more than 13,479 cases. There are 159 reported cases in Connecticut, including three deaths.

Meantime, 69% of Realtors said there’s no change in the number of homes on the market due to the global pandemic, down from 87% a week earlier.

Other findings include:

  • 54% of commercial members reported a decline in leasing clients, up from 18% a week earlier.
  • 83% of commercial buildings have changed sanitation and cleaning practices as an increasing number of tenants work remotely.
  • 40% of members said home sellers have not changed how their home is viewed while it remains on the market.

“The decline in confidence related to the direction of the economy coupled with the unprecedented measures taken to combat the spread of COVID-19, including major social distancing efforts nationwide, are naturally bringing an abundance of caution among buyers and sellers,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. 

“With fewer listings in what’s already a housing shortage environment, home prices are likely to hold steady,” he continued. “The temporary softening of the real estate market will likely be followed by a strong rebound once the economic ‘quarantine’ is lifted, and it’s critical that supply is sufficient to meet pent-up demand.”

A declining appetite for home buying is especially troubling in Connecticut’s real estate market, which is still recovering from the 2008-2010 recession. It also dampens a recent uptick in home buying in recent months.

In 2019, there were 33,146 single-family home sales in Connecticut, down 2.1% vs. 2018. The median sale price last year climbed 0.4% to $260,000, representing an 11-year high.

Hartford County had the largest batch of single-family home sales last year with 8,396 transactions and a median sale price of $226,000, down 0.7% from 2018. Trailing was Fairfield County with 8,237 single-family home sales in 2019 that had a median price of $440,000, which was also down 2.7 percent from the year prior.

Joe Cooper is HBJ’s web editor and real estate writer. He pens “The Real Deal” column about commercial real estate.

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