The beginning of 2020 saw the California real estate market humming along at a good clip. Then came March and the COVID-19 lock-down and everything came to a screeching halt. Sellers pulled homes off the market, afraid of contagion, and buyers stopped looking, mostly for the same reason, as the entire US economy literally shut down for about the next three and a half months.
But in June of 2020 things began to change. Real estate was designated “essential” and Home buyers, driven by a refocused need of home as a refuge, began to come out again. This resurgence was in part fueled by a large segment of workers in our economy who needed to work remotely from home, many with children who were also schooling remotely from home. Home has always been held in high esteem, but the pandemic raised the idea of Home as a Refuge to new levels of demand not seen before.
In July, the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) reported that home sales across the state rose by a whopping 42% from May to June 2020. That’s partly due to the state’s gradual reopening which happened at that time as well as from pent up buyer demand.
What was a surprise and has since become a trend is the exodus of buyers leaving high priced, high-density urban areas, like San Francisco, for suburban areas that offered more space, privacy, and affordability. In fact, as we speak, San Francisco continues to experience a softening of prices in its housing market. And local news channels report that a significant number of San Francisco rentals are sitting vacant.
As an example, this trend was readily seen last summer in areas like the Russian River of the North Bay. Out of the way comparatively “cheap” river shacks along Rio Nido, Guerneville, Monte Rio and Cazadero were gobbled up like so many potato chips left unattended at a picnic with all-cash offers and little to no contingencies. Other rural to suburban areas, like Murphys, is experiencing similar value shifts in its housing market. With many now having the ability to work remotely, areas once inaccessible as a primary residence are now doable.
Home Buying Institute (HBI) predicts the following for the California real estate market in 2021:
- Home price appreciation will tick upwards as buyers and sellers realize that real estate deals can still be conducted despite the pandemic and because of upcoming vaccinations which will help to create confidence and normalize life.
- “Urban Flight” will continue to be a thing, with the desire for space and privacy at an all time premium which will continue to drive up prices in small towns, suburbs and more rural areas.
- Home inventory is expected to grow as more sellers get comfortable with putting their home on the market again and as we see more foreclosures come to market.
- Mortgage rates are expected to stay at an all time low at around 3-3.5% well through 2021.
- An increase in home sales is expected as the urban to suburban migration continues, which should keep California’s real estate market very active all through 2021.
In conclusion, the housing market continues to surprise economists and analysts. During this unprecedented pandemic it has been referred to, repeatedly, as the one “bright spot” in the nation’s economy. This surprisingly strong performance is expected to continue through the end of 2020 and well into 2021. And as we collectively face the challenges ahead, including what is now commonly termed a “dark winter” it’s nice to have a bright spot on the horizon. Finally, it’s worth remembering that the shortest, darkest day of the year is December 21st, but after that, days will get longer and brighter. Think of the pandemic as the shortest, darkest day of the year and look forward to things getting better and brighter.
Wishing you and your loved ones hope and brightness in the days to come. May 2021 be the year more of our hopes and dreams come true.
—Mark Stevens and Associates at The Agency, Healdsburg
December 18, 2020
HBI (Home Buying Institute), http://www.homebuyinginstitute.com/news/california-housing-predictions-for-2021/