The real estate industry has long been considered recession-proof (at least recession-resistant). But is it pandemic-proof? And how is Cincinnati’s specific property market fairing in a time of economic interruptions, travel bans, and quarantines? We talked to two long-practicing local real estate agents, Maryann Ries of The Ries Team of Coldwell Banker West Shell and Chris Secaur of Keller Williams Advisors, to get a front-lines account of buying and selling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What was the most immediate change you noticed in our real estate market following the shutdown?
Maryann Ries: There’s a bigger shortage in inventory than there ever has been. In other words, prices are up, days on the market are down. And sales are down, which means that there’s not enough product.
We’re seeing that people who want to move are postponing their decision, withholding the inventory from the market. And that is causing more demand. Prices have increased over last year, and days on the market have declined.
Chris Secaur: I was holding off listings because I wanted to see what would happen with the market. We started putting them on about a month ago. And every one has sold very quickly. Inventory is low and the buyer demand is still there. So that creates urgency. I had a unit downtown that sold in mid-May for well over list in less than a day with five offers.
What impact do those trends have on the market?
Ries: The average sold price in Cincinnati, year-to-date, is 109 percent. It’s really good for sellers; it makes it a little more challenging for buyers. But the truth of the matter is the greater Cincinnati market is much more stable than some other markets.
Something that I always tell people about Cincinnati is that we have a disproportionate number of Fortune 50 companies that have a presence here. We have Fifth Third, Kroger, GE Aviation, Procter & Gamble. The depth and breadth of our corporate presence does tend to stabilize the market. It makes our highs lower and our lows higher. It makes our market a little flatter than other markets. For example, in Colorado Springs, whatever the U.S. Air Force is doing, that’s going to affect their market.
Another thing that has happened this year, compared to other years, is that interest rates are so low that it’s making property more affordable for people who want to buy real estate, and also for people who want to move up.
How has your buying and selling process changed?
Ries: We have hand sanitizer, we have the owners open every door and cabinet when possible so people don’t have to touch anything. We practice social distancing.
Secaur: In the beginning you had buyers who were afraid to go out and look at things. We had to get creative and do virtual walk-throughs. That’s not so much the norm now; people are getting out and moving around.
As much as you can predict, what can Cincinnati home buyers and sellers expect for the rest of the year?
Ries: We believe our traditional spring market, which is our biggest quarter of the year, will be moving to the fall, when people are moving around again. That is our hope. Because traditionally real estate is what brings us out of an economic downturn.
What needs to happen to get us there?
Secaur: More people need to put their houses on the market, and not be afraid to do so.