Central Ohio housing market showing strains because of coronavirus

Register now

Figures released Friday show that the central Ohio housing market remained robust through February, but evidence mounted this week that the coronavirus outbreak is crushing that market along with the rest of the economy.

Columbus-area home sales jumped 13% to record highs while prices rose 6.7% in February compared to a year earlier.

"Home sales took a leap over the previous month ... which in a normal market and economy would signal an early start of a busy spring," Columbus Realtors President Andy Mills said in a news release.

"Now, we are moving into uncharted territory, putting all statistical data on hold," he added.

The numbers for March are likely to look very different, as potential buyers and sellers stay put during the pandemic.

"Data in coming months won't be pretty and the nice run-up in sales we've been enjoying over the past year has been indefinitely paused," said Zillow Economist Matthew Speakman in a news release.

According to a survey released Thursday by the National Association of Realtors, 48% of the nation's real estate agents said interest in home buying has dropped since the outbreak.

"The decline in confidence related to the direction of the economy, coupled with the unprecedented measures taken to combat the spread of COVID-19, including major social distancing efforts nationwide, are naturally bringing an abundance of caution among buyers and sellers," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun in a news release.

Another report, by the real estate information service Point2 Homes, found that traffic to its site declined 35% this week. The report also found that Google searches for "real estate" fell 23% in the past week.

More than one out of four agents in the National Association of Realtors survey said sellers were less interested in putting their home on the market since the outbreak.

Potential home sellers aren't the only ones who appear to be holding tight. Figures released this week from the rental listing site RentCafe show that the number of people checking out apartments on the site declined 25% this week compared to last week.

"The rental season would typically kick off during springtime, but the spread of the COVID-19 virus has forced tenants to stay in isolation and reassess their priorities" according to RentCafe.

Despite the decline in buyer interest, Yun said he did not expect home prices to decline because supplies remained so tight.

"With fewer listings in what's already a housing shortage environment, home prices are likely to hold steady," he said, while signaling better days ahead.

"The temporary softening of the real estate market will likely be followed by a strong rebound once the economic 'quarantine' is lifted, and it's critical that supply is sufficient to meet pent-up demand," he said.

Tribune Content Agency