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The coronavirus pandemic has done what’s normal, and buying a home is no exception. Typically, the real estate market tends to slow down in the fall, as kids return to school and families juggle work, extracurricular activities, and upcoming vacations.

But that’s not what happens as we head into the second week of September, approaching the official start of fall: September 22. The houses are hang on faster as home values ​​rise and mortgage rates continue to fall.

“Home sales are currently stronger than they were before the pandemic and show no signs of slowing down,” said Cheryl Young, senior economist at Zillow. “Demand is fueled by low mortgage rates. We are also seeing a postponement of home purchases as the economy and housing market hit a pause in the spring.

The median listing price for single-family homes rose for the 17th straight week, jumping 10.8% year-over-year, the fastest growth in more than two years. Meanwhile, mortgage rates broke new records. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate is now 2.86%, and the 15-year rate hit 2.37% this week, two all-time lows, according to the recent survey of the primary mortgage market from Freddie Mac.

As the number of homes for sale continues to decline, new listings are happening quickly. They are 12 days shorter on the market than they were 12 months ago, according to the latest housing trends report from Realtor.com.

“With unusually high interest from buyers at the end of the home buying season, buyers are moving much faster than this time last year to beat the competition and get mortgage rates down. This means homes stay on the market for much less time despite significantly higher prices, ”wrote the report’s author, Realtor.com economist Danielle Hale.

The continuation of this buying trend remains to be seen as supply lags behind demand which appears to be the only real obstacle. What’s currently holding back home buying is chronically low inventory levels, Johnson says, and fierce competition for homes coming onto the market.

New listings fell 12% in the week ending September 5, causing problems if construction does not resume. This is particularly damaging for first-time buyers who are competing with a multitude of auctions for the same ad.

“Multiple offers are quite common for startup homes,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Why is home buying taking off now?

Experts cannot point to a reason why buying a home has defied expectations as we face a still uncertain economy and high levels of unemployment. True, the Federal Reserve and GSEs, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have helped keep the market liquid so lenders can continue to do business and contain mortgage rates. But why is there such a big appetite for real estate now?

Low mortgage rates? People fleeing the cities? The need for more space as working from home and distance learning become a reality? Dormant buyers waiting for the end of the pandemic? It is probably a combination of some or all of these factors.

“Buying a home is currently in a tear, but this is probably due in large part to the fact that those looking to buy during the spring home buying season have had to wait for the pandemic to set in,” Young said.

One undeniable influence in the recent buying frenzy is the ultra-low mortgage rate hike, says NAR’s Yun.

Buyers who were held back from buying in the spring saw mortgage rates drop. Now that businesses are opening up and more people are finding ways to live with the coronavirus safely, the reluctance to buy a home has subsided. The low rates only add further impetus to what was already a motivated buying segment.

“Low rates are the main reason for the strength of home purchases, despite the still high unemployment rate,” Yun said. “Those with secure jobs benefit from low interest rates. “

The circumstances surrounding the pandemic have also created home buyers, said Bill Cosgrove, president and CEO of Union Home Mortgage. People use their kitchens for offices and spare rooms for classrooms, so many of them are looking to expand.

Not only do they want more square footage, but they want to move away from urban cores so that they can have outdoor space as well.

“Our understanding of what ‘home’ should be like has really broadened in 2020 and it’s happening with homebuyers of all types,” Cosgrove said.

How the pandemic shaped the real estate market

Real estate experts agree the coronavirus has changed what people look for in a home, but to what extent is up for debate. For example, are people really abandoning New York and other big cities? At least enough to call it a “trend”.

The headlines have suggested that people are leaving dense urban centers like New York City to buy homes in the suburbs where land is plentiful and their neighbors are no less than six feet away. However, even with increased interest in places like upstate New York after COVID, there is still not enough data to identify a significant pattern.

Zillow looked at whether or not there was a change in where people want to live, especially in terms of cities and suburbs, as more and more people are spending time working and learning from home.

“After analyzing a plethora of data on the housing market, we did not see any strengthening of suburban markets relative to urban markets, nor an increase in single-family home search activity,” Young said.

Warburg Realty New York real estate broker Tania Isacoff Friedland says her clients have expressed interest in more space, but aren’t necessarily leaving town. Many want to trade in their penthouse for a townhouse, rather than ditching their Manhattan zip code for something pastoral.

“There have been many stories of the urban exodus, but my clients have been optimistic about New York’s future and are still investing here,” said Isacoff Friedland.

No matter where you live, the extra space sparks the interest of buyers. The prospect of working permanently from home and in schools requiring distance learning has caused homebuyers to re-evaluate the space they need. Even after the coronavirus containment, there will still be people who will continue to work from home, Yun says.

Additional considerations such as multigenerational living (where extended family moves in), as well as using the home as a recreation space, have sparked interest in the “destination home,” says Cosgrove of Union Home Mortgage.

The “destination house” is a one-stop-shop for homeowners who need to spend more time at home and may include space for outdoor activities, social gatherings, work, and private life.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to spend much more time at home more than ever. The destination home is a place where family and friends can get together rather than go out, ”says Cosgrove.