Demand for Tri-town houses high amid pandemic

Jul 15, 2020

With low inventory, low interest rates and buyers changing their lifestyle and hungry to move out of cities, the real estate market in the Tri-Town is booming, despite the pandemic.

And it’s not just for house sales the rental market also flooded with requests making a busy summer season even busier.

Since extra precautions for open houses went into effect, taking up additional time, real estate agents have been working flat out in the last month or so.

Agents from different agencies disagree as to whether the industry slowed down at all in the early stages of the pandemic. 

Bernadette Kelly of Bernadette Kelly Realty Group, noticed a lot of  real estate agents stepped away due to health concerns or family obligations, but said those who are still selling are doing well.

That may be in part because many buyers are “looking for refuge” from cities, as Chris Demakis of Demakis Family Real Estate described them.

There’s also a financial incentive: “interest rates are so low that it is almost like free money,” said Patricia McArdle of BOLD Real Estate.

Whatever the cause for the sales, Demakis said the housing market in the Tri-Town can’t meet the demand. “We will put a house on the market on Thursdays, have showings over the weekend and have multiple offers by the end of the weekend,” he said. In some cases, the offers come in over the asking prices. 

The seller’s market started before coronavirus hit and allows those who want to move to keep prices high. As McArdle puts it, “buyers are so hungry that covid wasn’t going to slow anything down.”

Not everyone agrees with her assessment, though. Beth Van der Veer, with Jack Conway in Mattapoisett said she stopped showings for a couple months because  “people were afraid,” then moved to limited showings.

During that time, Van der Veer saw a huge increase in her online traffic.

“I could tell that people were looking at real estate, but not going” out to see it in-person, she added. 

Hugh Harp from Kinlin Grover said he lost about five closings before things rebounded.

The seller’s market has allowed those that are bold enough to part with their house to accept offers without any contingencies from the buyers, who must act quickly to snap up a house.

Margot Kalkanis from Converse Realty said she has found, “many people buy houses sight unseen because they can’t get here.”

However, low inventory also creates uncertainty for those sellers when they move. Linda Ciccatelli, a Rochester homeowner who is selling her home, will rent before buying again, and said it was “easier to make the decision to transition with older kids.”

It isn’t just home sales that exploded. Kalkanis said “the rental market is on fire. We have rented every single one of our Marion properties.” She said summer is always busy, but this year doubled its normal rental volume.   

Sandy Galavotti with Dawson Real Estate in Mattapoisett said the unique circumstances of the pandemic opened up an opportunity when it came to second homes. 

“People who are able to work more remotely can buy a second home and can spend the whole summer there instead of just a week or two,” Galavotti said. “It became a lot more attainable,” Galavotti said. 

Her office, like many of her peers, moved to new “healthy showing protocols.” These involve masks, making sure doors were already open and lights on so clients do not touch them. Many also set scheduled appointments rather than having open houses.

Rossi said the new regulations are easier to pass on to clients and met with less resistance if she keeps her demeanor “lighthearted, so people don’t get offended.”

Kelly noted clients are very good at following new protocols, but showings take twice as long as a result. Her agents started open houses two weeks ago, but she has two real estate agents at each showing, one outside directing traffic and the other inside making sure that only one party is on each floor.

Rossi and Harp also started working together to manage open houses when the pandemic started. The two work in different styles, so they say they butt heads a bit.

Even so, “we learn every time we have a buyer,” Harp said. 

The agents all used technology differently while they could not hold open houses. Galavotti said she offered virtual tours, but found clients much preferred to see the houses in person.

Kelly would offer walkthrough videos, but they served as a precursor to a tour.

Demakis said that in the past he used video for properties listed for over a million dollars. Now he is doing virtual tours or 3D camera tours for a lot of houses, and “getting a lot of hits.”