Warwick, R.I. – April 10, 2020 … One month into the widespread effects of the coronavirus pandemic, statistics released today from RI Realtors indicate that despite impediments from COVID-19, single-family home sales rose slightly year-over-year in March and pending sales – those under contract but not yet closed – dropped negligibly, down .4 percent. The median price of those sales was $300,000, a 13.2 percent gain.
Though some closings were delayed, Realtors were busy last month putting the finishing touches on deals commenced before the onslaught of barriers brought on by COVID-19. Pivoting quickly to working as remotely as possible, showings, inspections and closings took place throughout March – many of them virtual.
While the virus is expected to quell the robust start to 2020’s spring housing market, many Realtors believe that pent up demand and low interest rates will encourage a quick ramp up of activity once the economy reopens. According to a country-wide flash survey of Realtors by the National Association of Realtors, 59 percent of respondents indicated they believe they would see a return of their buyer clients after a few months, while 57 percent indicated the same for seller clients.
NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun remarked that he believes home prices will remain stable because of a pandemic-induced reduction in inventory coupled with less immediate concerns over foreclosures. Rhode Island housing inventory fell further in March, continuing a trend of shrinking supply marked by double-digit monthly declines for most of the past year.
“Of course, it’s too early to tell exactly what will happen in the housing market but if there’s good news in all of this, it’s that we don’t have the same conditions that we had in the earlier downturn. Our loans are shored up by stricter guidelines and the government has taken steps to help homeowners with conventional loans avoid foreclosure if the virus affects their ability to pay their mortgage. Plus, the buyers were out there in droves at the beginning of the spring selling season so if some don’t resume their home search, that could actually help to create a more balanced market. The bottom line is, it really depends on how long this goes on,” said Shannon Buss, President of the RI Association of Realtors.
In other market sectors, sales activity and median sales price rose while pending sales dropped. Sales activity rose by 5.8 percent from 12 months prior among multifamily home sales and the median sales price rose 11.3 percent, while pending sales dropped by 4.9 percent.
Among condominium sales, March closings increased 16.7 percent year-over-year, the median sales price rose 2.2 percent and condo contracts written but not yet completed dropped from 291 in March 2019 to 209 last month.