Virtual tours and videos replaced open houses. Buyers and sellers wore gloves and kept their distance — sometimes sitting in their cars — during closings.
But close they did as homes kept selling during the first month of the new coronavirus outbreak, and prices in the Denver area kept going up. The Denver Metro Association of Realtors calculated the median price of a home at $446,500 in March, up 3.84 percent over February and 7.59 percent over March of 2019.
The outbreak did not just change the way realtors did business. It appears to have spooked some sellers. The realtors group said 761 sellers in the region took down “for sale” signs in March, most in the last two weeks of the month, the period when restrictions started being placed on restaurants and bars and stay-at-home orders were issued to try to stop the person-to-person spread of disease. Typically, November and December are the months when the most homes are withdrawn from the market. Last November, 581 homes were withdrawn, the realtors group said.
The large number of withdrawals in March may have been because of sellers’ fears of “contaminated buyers walking through their homes, or concerns about their jobs and the economy,” said Jill Schafer, who chairs the realtor group’s market trends committee and is a Kentwood agent.
Despite the withdrawals, active listings at the end of March were up nearly 20 percent compared to the end of February to 5,776. That followed a 2.15 percent slip in inventory from January to February.
“While more inventory is what we’ve been needing, it may also spark anxiety that we are on our way back to the huge excess inventory days of the last recession,” Schafer said in a statement accompanying the monthly housing sales report.
She said while inventory increased month-to-month, there were 8.2 percent fewer active listings than in March of 2019, and prices remained high.
Nicole Rueth, a member of the realtor group’s market trends committee, said real estate continued to perform while stocks were volatile. Rueth, who also manages The Rueth Team mortgage loan company in Denver, said the coronavirus had put an “artificial pause” on growth.
Real estate has been classified as a critical business, therefore exempt from restrictions under Colorado’s stay-at-home order.
“There are people out there who need to buy a home and others who need to sell, so we continue to work. But the way we do our jobs has changed,” Schafer said.