COVID Slows Real Estate Market During Peak Season

Buyers and sellers less willing to brave face-to-face contact with looming fears of pandemic

Coronavirus (PD-USGov-HHS-CDC)

(NEW YORK, NEW YORK)— Agents are seeing home sales fall as panicked buyers back out of deals and sellers hesitate to invite strangers into their home for showings, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The virus strikes the city at a particularly unfortunate time, halting home sales at the time when they would normally be at their peak. According to The National Association of Realtors (NAR), 40% of home sale deals are closed March through June. Now, brokers told WSJ that they are seeing sellers back out of deals rather than inviting a potentially infected individual into their home. Recommended self-quarantines are also isolating potential sellers and deterring motivated buyers who might otherwise be hitting the streets in search of a new apartment.

The dip in the market runs contrary to analysts’ predictions for 2020. With mortgage rates at record lows—just 3.6% on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage—real estate market experts had hoped for a buying boom to revive a market that has been slowing rapidly in recent months. Coronavirus fears have dealt a considerable blow to that dream, making a 2020 housing recession seem increasingly likely (though not inevitable).

New York hit new levels of panic this week, with 200 cases reported as of March 11—up exponentially from the 11 infected individuals who were infected just one week before. Analysts are looking to other booming markets hit hard by the coronavirus to estimate the impact on real estate in the city. The Real Deal took a look at formerly-booming markets in Seoul and Milan, two up-and-coming cities hit especially hard by recent outbreaks. They found that residential sales were down by 12% in Milan since the start of 2020. In Korea, home sales are down by a shocking 80% since the first reported outbreak in early march, and by nearly 90% in Seoul alone.

While predictions seem grim, Harvard health urges citizens to stay calm and practice good hygiene. The flu, whose threat millions of Americans have braved daily and without thought, has claimed 25,000 victims this season. While the novelty and severity of coronavirus easily incites panic, it is important to stay calm.

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