It’s no secret that the events of 2020 turned entire industries on their heads, from restaurants and retail to real estate itself. While the housing market certainly experienced a dip at the outset of the pandemic, for the last several months the local market has seen inventory diminish, demand skyrocket and mortgage rates fall. Although there is no sign of a typical winter slow-down, we have yet to see what 2021 has in store.
To get a more holistic look at what these next 12 months hold for the local housing market, the W Report sat down with some of Windermere’s real estate leaders to take a peek into their crystal ball.
We began with Matt Deasy, President of Windermere East, Inc., who takes a practical approach to his forecast. “Our low level of inventory is in uncharted territory,” he points out, “so predicting the market is harder than usual.”
We asked Deasy if 2021 could see builders add enough new construction to lessen the current inventory shortage. He says that while there has been little change to the slow pace of single family new construction, new condominium projects could start to add some units to the market. “High rise condos could be different,” he says. “What happens to demand is still in question, but several projects are being delivered, including The Emerald and Spire.”
Windermere Midtown’s Tamara Marson agrees that condos could offer a positive outlook for buyers in 2021. As Co-chairperson of the Seattle Condominium Network, she offered us her insight on the state of the Seattle condo market.
“This market will improve as buyers gain confidence in COVID-19 relief from vaccines. That will deliver some vibrancy to condominium neighborhoods,” Marson says. “Low interest rates will drive some buyers to come to the market, particularly if the rates increase. And the low number of sales in 2020, particularly in downtown buildings and some neighborhoods, has contributed to buyers watching prices decrease and waiting for the best bargains.”
Marson also believes that the job market in Seattle could continue to help the condo market improve in 2021. “In-migration may also increase as some travel restrictions are reduced and hiring continues,” she says. “If inventory does not spike and demand sees some increase, the market will improve.”
Next, we turned to Laura Smith, co-owner and designated broker of Windermere Real Estate Co., to get her take on how brokers can help buyers find additional housing options in spite of the current low inventory.
“In short, the answer is to help identify more homeowners willing to sell,” Smith says. “We are coaching brokers on how to uncover more potential inventory by doing equity analyses with homeowners. The lens of education is key here — educating prospective sellers about their equity, their home’s market prospects, what it will take to get their home prepared for market, etc. This way more prospective sellers will be able to make informed, confident decisions.”
Smith also reminds brokers of the resources Windermere can offer buyers and sellers. “We have a program — Windermere Ready — that helps sellers prepare their homes for market with minimal effort and no upfront costs,” she says. “We also have a fantastic bridge loan product that enables sellers to make their next move before selling their current residence. So if some homeowners don’t feel fully empowered as prospective sellers or buyers, our brokers have access to programs and tools that will boost their clients’ confidence as they consider entering the market.”
We also asked Windermere Capitol Hill owner and designated broker Pat Grimm what he saw coming in his crystal ball for 2021. “I actually have a crystal ball on my desk and it isn’t telling me anything,” Grimm says. “My gut says that 2021 will be an extremely active year. The amount of upheaval and disruption in people’s lives is unprecedented. The pandemic has caused a lot of introspection and reflection and all that equates to life-altering events, which is the fundamental driver of real estate sales. If we can finally see the pandemic in the rearview mirror by mid-year, the balance of this year will feel like VJ Day back in 1945… We could see a baby boom that will drive demand into 2022.”
As brokers and clients have adapted to the unusual circumstances presented by the pandemic, one can’t help but wonder if the use of remote technologies and substitutions for face-to-face transactions will become the new normal. Patrick Chinn, President of Windermere Midtown, shared his thoughts with us.
“Honestly, most brokers can’t wait for things to get back to normal so they can tour properties, host open houses and meet with clients at the same frequency and level they did pre-pandemic,” he says. “But we’ll definitely see some digitally-based listing tools — like QR code flyers and 3D tours — remain and be relied upon when things get ‘back to normal.’ There’s continued opportunity for brokers to engage with immersive technologies. And remote scheduling tools for showing homes — like the Showing Time app from our MLS — may well supplant the traditional broker-to-broker phone call to schedule a showing.”
With these insights in hand, it’s up to brokers and their clients to decide how they would like to navigate the housing market in the coming year and prepare for a post-pandemic world. Luckily, with local leadership and sound advice from Windermere’s own experts, they won’t have to do it alone.
In fact, Patrick Chinn is already pondering the finer points of life after the pandemic. “My big question,” he says, “is whether elbow-bumps will have to be as much of a thing post-COVID.”
His answer? “I think it’s inevitable that celebratory handshakes will be fully back at some point.”