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Real estate market continues, but sees slower spring season

  • A drive-through real estate closing at Better Homes and Gardens/Masiello Group in Peterborough on Thursday, April 9, 2020. (BEN CONANT / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • A drive-through real estate closing at Better Homes and Gardens/Masiello Group in Peterborough on Thursday, April 9, 2020. (BEN CONANT / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Home buyer Shawn Kavenagh of Peterborough and Michelle Howe of Grady’s Title finalize paperwork during a drive-through real estate closing at Better Homes and Gardens/Masiello Group in Peterborough on Thursday. Kavenagh and the seller parked in the parking lot and Howe parked in between and shuttled the documents back and forth for signatures. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/13/2020 3:59:24 PM

When early April rolls around, realtors are typically all over the place. Showing houses, meeting with potential sellers, attending closings, checking inventory – and anything else that comes with the spring boom.

There doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to get it all done, but it’s what agencies and realtors prepare all winter for. But after the coronavirus pandemic hit, it hasn’t been the typical start to the real estate season that one may have envisioned just a month ago.

Despite the social distancing guidelines and stay at home recommendations, the real estate market is still moving forward, albeit at a slower pace, with sales and showings happening daily.

“It’s kind of an interesting time,” said Marc Tieger, owner of Tieger Realty in Jaffrey. “And that’s a mild word.”

Spring boom?

Tieger said that business is still going forward because “there will always be people who want to sell a house or buy one.”

“There’s no question it’s slower, but it hasn’t come to a screeching halt,” Tieger said.

Shirley Despres, owner of Despres and Associates Inc. in Jaffrey, said the work goes on, but not at the same rapid pace as the last few years.

“We haven’t had a lot of inventory for a while and this definitely doesn’t help,” she said. “I see new listings coming up, but not a lot. It hasn’t gone all the way downhill though.”

Despres said that for those houses on the market that are currently unoccupied, it makes showings and inspections a lot easier.

Andy Peterson of Four Seasons Sotheby’s said so far things have been busy for them.

“There’s a lot of interest and activity with purchasing,” he said.

But at the same time, Peterson said some are shying away from the process right now, which has significantly reduced the amount of available properties associated with the spring season.

“And that obviously plays into the supply and demand,” he said. “If people want to hold off that’s perfectly understandable.”

But it leaves that question of what could have been.

“There were a lot of reasons to believe this would be a very opportune time,” Peterson said.

Adjusting

Just last Thursday, Denise Whitney, an associate broker with Better Homes and Gardens The Masiello Group in Peterborough, was sitting in her car in the office parking lot, in the rain, making sure everything went smoothly with a closing.

“Everyone just stays in their cars,” she said.

A lot of title companies have made the switch to those ways, Whitney said. Zoom has now become a place where notarization can be validated to keep people safely away from each other.

After the coronavirus found its way into New Hampshire, Matt Cabana, an associate broker with Bean Group, said he had to sit back and look at what he did and how he did it.

“It’s adjusting to that new environment,” Cabana said. “Those who adapt thrive. There’s still ways to do our jobs effectively and safely. Business and life find a way.”

He said they’ve been taking the proper precautions when necessary, including using booties, gloves and masks.

“You just adapt to what’s comfortable and what feels right,” Cabana said.

Whitney said at Masiello they are taking all the necessary steps to ensure the safety of those involved with booties, sanitizer, gloves and masks.

Tieger said that some changes have been made, where they bring masks and gloves to all showings. But, he said that it is hard at times to maintain that six-foot social distancing guideline.

Some owners have taken precautions by leaving doors and drawers open so people don’t have to unnecessarily touch something.

“People are very aware of the horrible situation that we’re in,” Tieger said.

Despres said she went to a home inspection last week and everyone was wearing masks and less people were involved.

“Everyone is certainly apprised of what they need to do,” she said.

Peterson said it now requires more advanced planning and extra cleaning to pull off showings.

“This is a temporary circumstance, but it’s something we take very seriously,” he said.

Peterson said there have been a number of remote showings and they’ve been doing a lot of videos that show every detail of the property that are sent to those serious prospective buyers.

“You’re able to know quite a bit about a home without a site visit,” he said, while adding that nothing beats being there.

Inventory

With low inventory for some time now, the expectation was to see an increase in homes for sale once spring rolled around, but it just hasn’t happened yet.

“We’ve been fighting the demand for a long time,” Cabana said.

But despite the limited numbers on the market, Cabana said his agents have closed on quite a few properties over the last month.

“Those that need to sell or want to sell, it’s a good time to do it,” Cabana said.

Tieger said that after a relatively mild winter “logically things would be getting ready to pop so to speak.”

What realtors have found is that some people are uncertain about moving forward with listings or showings, causing them to hold off on the selling process.

“I’m not sure some people think this is the best time to put a house on the market,” Tieger said. “It all boils down to the seller’s motivation.”

Despres said she has been advising clients to wait till May to put their homes on the market.

“It’s that time of year. Spring is just coming out and it’s the time people start thinking about it,” Despres said. But she sees a good reason to keep the numbers low until it is safer for all involved to go through the process.

Whitney said they have also had people pull their listings for the time being.

“I haven’t seen sellers drop out of the market completely, but just putting on the brakes,” she said. “So if it’s on the market right now, it’s because they want it to sell.”

Peterson said that things are still moving quickly, citing a local property that sold the same day it was put on the market last week.

“We’re seeing a lot activity,” Peterson said. “There are several transactions that are closing over the next week to 10 days.”

Whitney said she had a property in Sharon two weeks ago that had multiple offers and “the people that are buying it went on a virtual tour.”

As of late last week, Whitney said there were 25 homes and condos on the market in Peterborough, but normally that number would be over 50.

“People just have to decide when to enter the market,” Whitney said.

Motivated buyers

Whitney said in an effort to limit the number of visits to homes, they are requiring a letter showing recent qualification from a bank for those looking to finance or proof of funds for cash buyers.

“It’s only the serious buyers that we’re taking into homes,” Whitney said. “And it’s only the essential decision makers that are going to the showings.”

She said there have been instances of bringing in family members through Facetime or Zoom to see properties.

Tieger has seen a shift where it tends to be more serious buyers looking, still motivated to find that perfect property.

“There are still people looking for houses,” Tieger said. “There’s still activity, but the numbers are way down of course.”

Peterson said that Gov. Chris Sununu’s decision to deem real estate as an essential business has been very helpful.

“We literally have people who sold their homes that need that next transaction,” he said.

The current situation has led to the more serious buyers still moving forward.

“People aren’t just going to look, they’re going to buy,” Peterson said.

The numbers

According to weekly numbers provided by the Contoocook Valley Board Of REALTORS, there were 122 properties on the market as of Friday. In the report released on March 13, the Friday before Gov. Sununu began rolling out restrictions and guidelines for industries and citizens of New Hampshire, there were 129 properties available for purchase. Only four local towns, Dublin, Jaffrey, Peterborough and Rindge, currently have double digit properties on the market

On April 12, 2019, there were 168 properties available.

The number of homes under contract stood at 96 on March 13, with only a slightly larger number of 99 on April 10.

Between March 14 and April 10, a total of 34 properties have been sold according to the Contoocook Valley Board Of REALTORS, which was only slightly up from the previous month of 31 from Feb. 15 through March 13.

Future

While it’s hard to predict, the hope is that things start to get back to normal sooner rather than later.

“Our summer market may be bigger than our spring market,” Despres said.

Peterson said that the coronavirus pandemic may add another attractive reason for people to move to the region – the rural character.

Whitney doesn’t expect property values to go down because of the pandemic.

“Because we are anticipating a huge influx coming on to the market,” she said. “The recovery could happen very quickly. I think they’ll come on slowly, but they’ll get bought as quickly as they are now.”

Cabana sees how the challenges of spotty internet affects real estate values, but with so many people shifting to working remotely, Cabana expects a greater push for better more reliable service.

Peterson said he is optimistic that there will be a resurgence once life moves back toward where it was.

“Whether this will be a delayed boom or a prolonged issue is hard to tell,” Peterson said. “We’ll know a lot more looking back than we do looking forward.”




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