Houstonians hated their homes so much during quarantine, they moved. According to the Houston Association of Realtors (HAR), total property sales increased by 18.3 percent in June 2020 compared to June 2019.
While summer usually sees an uptick in the real estate market, Alex Doubet, founder of Door.com, an online real estate company, thinks June's numbers rose by such a marked contrast compared to that same time last year because a lot of people got cabin fever during the COVID-19 shutdown in April.
“The theory that I’ve heard frequently is that you’re sitting at home, and you’re looking at that ugly kitchen that you’ve always wanted to do something about,” he says, “but suddenly you’re looking at it instead of just nights and weekends, you’re looking at it every day for four or six weeks.”
Some folks tried to renovate—both Home Depot and Lowe's saw big spikes in first quarter sales—but others, who weren’t so HGTV-inclined, just opted to get out of Dodge and find a new abode. This June 9,328 single-family homes sold in Houston. (In June 2019 only 8,063 single-family homes sold.) When you throw in the layoffs, the overall economic uncertainty, and the sheer stress of this strange year, the fact that so many people opted to move is even more remarkable.
The rise in sales couldn’t have come fast enough for a market hurting from both COVID-19 and the energy crisis. Doubet says March was not heavily affected by the pandemic, but once the coronavirus “started to really hit in earnest, in mid-March, April was the first month that was really impacted.” He called April and May “tough months.” In April 2020 Houston saw a 21.6-percent decrease in total property sales compared to April 2019. Similarly, May saw a 20.7-percent decrease compared to a year prior.
Home showings statewide plummeted, bottoming out with 44.6-percent fewer home showings on March 31 compared to the start of 2020, according to ShowingTime, a real estate market statistics service. However, Doubet says that number could’ve been a lot worse. “I thought we were going to see 90-percent declines in showing volumes versus last year.”
After March 31, though, home showings began to steadily increase. As of July 13 the stats were up 46 percent from the start of the year (a 10.3-percent increase from this time last year). Likewise, home prices are also up, a good sign in the real estate market, even if it’s rough on your wallet. According to HAR, the median single-family home price increased by 3.6 percent “to a historic high of $262,000.”
However, all is not quite hunky-dory in the Houston housing market. While overall single-family home sales increased, big ticket homes, priced $750,000 and higher, were not exactly hot on the market, with those sales decreasing 10.6 percent in June. Additionally, there aren’t nearly as many new home listings overall. According to HAR, new listings were down 3.3 percent as of July 6, and that number had been decreasing for five straight weeks. Homes were also spending more time on the market, an average of 56 days instead of 50 days.
Doubet thinks the currently skyrocketing COVID-19 numbers in Texas and the looming possibility of another shutdown will negatively impact the housing market in the coming months, but not to the same degree as in the spring. Showing numbers are still high, he points out, although “I wouldn’t be shocked if we saw a slight decline of showing volumes versus last year in the coming months as people get nervous about going out in public again.”
But he doesn’t think the market will see another hit like the one it sustained in late March. COVID-19 has become almost normalized, he says, and the pent-up demand of home buyers in the spring will flood into the rest of the year.
“Traditionally, April, May, June are really big months,” Doubet says. “They were curbed this year because of COVID, so I think we’re going to see a very strong market leading into the end of 2020.”