The Baltimore Business Journal reports "Maryland home buying remains 'bullish' — and some buy sight unseen"

Posted on 9/9/2020 by in News

By: Melody Simmons
Reporter, Baltimore Business Journal

Homebuying trends in Greater Baltimore have been in a reset mode like most other things these past six months as Covid-19 continues to impact the market.

That's one take from a residential real estate expert who said the buying and selling patterns showing up in monthly data have led to some new standards, including some families buying a home sight unseen.

"We found that more than one in four respondents to a survey said they would be willing to put in a bid on a house having never stepped foot in it," said Chris Finnegan, a spokesman for Rockville-based Bright MLS.

Finnegan said the survey by Bright MLS during "National Homeownership Month" in June reflected an emerging trend based on months of virtual house tours by prospective buyers now underway because of the novel coronavirus. It also showed that buyers are in search of dedicated home office space, a large yard and a more remote neighborhood setting as opposed to an urban lifestyle.

In addition, the coming years will see residential sales driven by high tech that likely will include virtual closings.

"We’re going to see as things continue to gradually open up a market that relies on the best of both worlds," he added. "It's going to be both through virtual tours and sight unseen. It’s not either-or, but a situation that is in play."

The residential market this summer has shown a rebound from its flatline status this spring, Finnegan added. Some of that activity is based on individuals and families seeking out more living space in a suburban environment because of ongoing social distancing and more people staying at home.

Data points toward a sellers market this fall as the available housing stock begins to pick up and listings emerge. Record low interest rates are also driving the market.

Last month, Bright MLS data showed that Baltimore-area homebuyers acquired new houses during July at a 10-year record pace with single-family sales leading the way. The single-family median sales price rose a record 7.1% in July compared to the same month in 2019 — a 10-year high that posted a total of 4,536 closings.

Finnegan said that surge is expected to continue into the fall unless a second spike in Covid-19 takes over. Families struggling with work from home situations and home schooling their children are also looking to branch out into larger and new digs, he said.

Some regions in the U.S., including the New York, Connecticut and New Jersey markets, are reporting brisk residential sales with multiple offers on a property within hours.

"The residential forecast is bullish," he said. "It's because you’ve got a couple things going. If you’re a seller, it's about pricing, and days on market. That's what’s motivating buyers.

"You've also folks looking at their four walls for six months now and they get a little stir crazy and there’s a natural inclination to change things up. Home values are changing, and you’ve got a new normal, though we’re all trying to figure out what that is going to be."