Market Trends

Stay-at-home order curbs Rhode Island home sales in May

Warwick, R.I. – June 15, 2020 – The median price of single-family homes sold in Rhode Island hit a new record last month. May’s price of $309,500 was the third time in a year that Rhode Island’s median sales price topped the $300,000 threshold.

The flip side of that news was a 31 percent decline in sales year-over-year, a drop directly tied to the pandemic. The number of homes available for sale fell 33 percent since May of 2019, leaving a 2.7-month supply of inventory, a slight increase than that seen earlier in the year, though still distressingly low.

The good news is that the market did not show further decline from the prior month – median sales price, closing activity and listings of single-family homes increased marginally from April to May.

“What we saw last month is not surprising given that everyone was sequestered at home in April and much of March,” said Shannon Buss, President of the Rhode Island Association of Realtors. “It has become apparent that our “spring” selling season will begin in the summer, depending on the comfort level of buyers and sellers in social settings as we reopen the economy. The good news is, we’re seeing a lot of buying activity, and multiple offer situations are prevalent.”

The multifamily home median price also hit an all-time high, climbing to $305,000, a 14 percent gain from May of last year. Sales plummeted 42.6 percent however, and listings fell 43 percent from the prior May, leaving just over a two-month supply of multifamily homes for sale.

From April to May, stay at home orders and pandemic hardships caused multifamily home sales activity to fall 23 percent, while the median sales price grew by 14.3 percent. The supply of properties on the market increased marginally, from two months in April to 2.2 months in May.

“Our investor-driven market has been hit the hardest as far as inventory shortages. Even prior to the pandemic, owners have been reaping the benefits of rising rental income, so they have been hanging on to those properties. And, of course, current events have made it even harder to list properties for sale,” commented Buss.

The condominium market also saw price gains, coupled with steep declines in closed transactions. The median sales price rose five percent to $243,500, while sales activity dropped 38.6 percent year-over-year.  The number of listings also decreased significantly, falling 23 percent from the prior year.

Currently the condo market has a 3.6-month supply of units for sale and while still far below the six-month supply which indicates a balanced market, condos offer the most options for buyers to choose from at the lowest price points.

From April to May, the condo sector held its own. Sales rose by 28.7 percent while median price and listings fell by 2.6 and 3.9 percent respectively.

“Obviously sales activity in May was bleak, as we expected, but we’re heartened by the fact that conditions haven’t deteriorated further from April to May.  Our biggest obstacle is listing properties for sale, but that was the case before the pandemic as well. Now that the stay at home orders are lifted and people are getting back out, we’re hopeful that potential sellers will become more comfortable about putting their home on the market. Sellers really are getting top dollar right now and buyers are taking advantage of fantastic rates,” commented Buss.

See accompanying sales statistics and infographic here.

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