Buyers seeking homes with space for home offices is contributing to the increased sales
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Although times of uncertainty would seem to foster a stagnant housing market — everyone staying put until things settle down — the pandemic has continued to boost a seller’s market as numerous people want something different and for a variety of reasons.
“We’ve had an incredible year, even with COVID,” said Bill Galloway, broker and owner at Century 21 Galloway Realty in Oswego. “This year is definitely going to be a sellers’ market.”
He added that a lack of inventory is what will continue to propel the trend.
In addition to low interest rates, stimulus checks have nudged some buyers toward a purchase as they can offer a bigger down payment.
Galloway said buyers range from those wanting a fixer-upper to higher-end homes.
“There’re buyers throughout the market,” he said.
Some people working at home want larger digs to have a home office, as they are realizing that working from home will likely continue indefinitely and maybe will become the norm for many companies.
“Home offices are a huge thing,” Galloway said. “They want that larger square footage. There’s a lot of stepping up in the market.”
In addition to locals, people from Downstate have been moving up to less expensive Upstate markets since their proximity to their workplace no longer matters.
They can afford much larger homes Upstate.
Galloway also said that moving to a rural area seems safer because it’s less densely populated.
Tom Haggerty, licensed real estate broker with Century 21 Leah’s Signature in Fulton, has seen so much growth that he is looking for additional real estate agents to handle the workload, he said. He predicts that the 2020 trend toward buying single-family, three- to four-bedroom homes with two to two-and-a-half baths will continue this year.
“Generally, they want something that is a little bit larger than the one they currently occupy as a result of the home schooling and many parents are working from home,” he said. “They find they need a little more elbow room.”
The aging population also affects housing trends, as many families consider cohabitation with their elderly parents instead of assisted living where the pandemic could mean they do not see each other for great lengths of time, if ever. In addition, more people have reconsidered nursing home care because of the lives lost there during the worst of the pandemic.
“People have to consider what their next five, 10 or 20 years will bring them,” Haggerty said. “There are always life circumstances that can change a person’s wants, needs and desires. That will have the highest impact on the housing market in the short-term and long-term future.”
More young, first-time buyers are entering the market instead of renting for many years. With low interest rates, it is an affordable time to enter the housing market. For this and other reasons, Kelly Loya, licensed salesperson for My Town Realty in Syracuse, said that she has 20 buyers for every home for sale.
“What people are looking for are primarily ranch houses and open concepts so they can use the space for their own needs,” Loya said. “A lot of people are working from home and are home schooling. People like a versatile space. Another thing is multi-generational living. A lot of builders are building with that concept.”
Despite the growth in the market, Loya does not see the makings of another housing bubble burst such as in 2008 because of improvements in the lending standards to prevent sub-prime lending. It is much tougher for people with low income-to-mortgage ratio and poor credit to obtain a mortgage.
Condition seems to matter more to buyers in today’s market. Noelle Beckwith Salmonsen, licensed salesperson with My Freedom Real Estate in Hannibal, said that people focus on that more than location since so many people are working and schooling at home.
“Homes with any type of acreage are huge demand,” she said. “It’s a seller’s market, so you can’t take a listing and have it not sell. There’s someone who wants to buy it if priced right.”
She also reported low inventory — the lowest it has ever been — and hopes that inventory will pick up once the weather warms up more.
“The demand right now far exceeds the supply,” Salmonsen added. “Buyers are having to waive home inspections and buying things as-is to win the bidding.”
Aligning with the aging in place trend, those buying to cohabit with a senior or those who are older seek first-floor bedroom and laundry room.
As another pandemic effect, good outdoor living space makes a home stand out to potential buyers.
“A patio or BBQ area is what people want as they are spending more time at home,” Salmonsen said. “They want their home life to be comfortable. They want more storage space. People want that extra outbuilding if a home doesn’t have a garage or a full basement.”
With more space, they can more easily enjoy hobbies while staying home.