How Is the Coronavirus Impacting Real Estate Over Time?

Editor’s note: All of HomeLight’s coronavirus information for buyers, sellers, and agents is available on our COVID-19 hub.

The coronavirus outbreak remains a rapidly moving target. To keep tabs on this fast-changing environment and how real estate is holding up during these times, HomeLight is issuing a biweekly Flash Poll (sent out every other Wednesday morning) to top real estate agents across the country to see how their business is faring and to track reports from their local housing markets. We’ll release the poll results the following Thursday morning after agents are surveyed, so check back for updates.

Week of May 27, 2020: Buyer demand is back

Agent-reported real estate data for the end of May continued to move in a dramatically positive direction, results from our latest market pulse survey show. Optimism in the profession surpassed Q4 2019 levels, the percent of those who say their business is growing nearly tripled over April, and as few as 3% of agents across the country report that buyer activity is on the decline (compared to 78% on the 1st of April). Talk about a major turn of events.

A few questions remain, however, about the longevity of this market rebound. Considering that 66% of agents report that buyer activity is primarily being driven by pent-up demand from earlier this spring, it’s unclear whether the appetite to move will hold strong after these buyers settle into the homes they planned to buy several months ago. Although 90% of agents believe that low mortgage interest rates continue to boost buyer demand, the implementation of stricter lending standards could act as a counterbalance to the appeal of an attractive mortgage.

There’s also the buyer-seller equilibrium to take into account. Currently, it appears buyer demand is bouncing back quicker than seller activity. During the week of May 27, 55% of agents reported an increase in seller activity, while 79% reported the same among buyers. Meanwhile, bidding wars are cropping up again: 65% of agents say that bidding wars are on the rise, up 2 percentage points from February (which was the peak of market momentum and agent optimism, prior to May). Clearly a lack of supply is only fueling competition as energy on the buy side surges.

Here’s a summary of our latest numbers:

For the first time since the coronavirus outbreak, a majority (58%) of agents report that business is normal or growing.

  • 41% of agents describe business as slower than normal but still doing deals (down from 51%)
  • 22% say their business is actually growing despite current circumstances (up from 20%)
  • 36% describe their business as steady or about the same as before the pandemic (up from 24%)
  • 1% say their business has come screeching to a halt (down from 5% two weeks ago)
  • No agents polled say their business is on hold for now / they’ve deliberately stepped out of the market

Buyer and seller dropout rates continue to decline.

May 27 – Agents estimate that:

  • 22% of sellers in their market have dropped out
  • 26% of buyers in their market have dropped out

May 13 – Agents estimate that:

  • 30% of sellers in their market have dropped out
  • 29% of buyers in their market have dropped out

April 29 – Agents estimate that:

  • 33% of sellers in their market have dropped out
  • 35% of buyers in their market have dropped out

April 15 – Agents estimate that:

  • 37% of sellers in their market have dropped out
  • 43% of buyers in their market have dropped out

Buyers and sellers are more likely to be starting to resume their plans than they were a few weeks ago.

As of May 27, 2020, sellers who hit pause are generally:

  • Delaying for a couple more months: 36%
  • Starting to resume their plans: 36%
  • Stepping out indefinitely: 5%
  • Have already resumed their plans: 14%
  • N/A (haven’t seen any sellers step out): 9%

As of May 27, 2020, buyers who hit pause are generally:

  • Delaying for a couple more months: 26%
  • Starting to resume their plans: 39%
  • Stepping out indefinitely: 3%
  • Have already resumed their plans: 21%
  • N/A (haven’t seen any buyers step out): 11%

Reports of a “seller’s market” rose 19% from two weeks ago, suggesting that buyer demand is outpacing supply at an increasing rate.

  • May 27: 70% said it was a seller’s market
  • May 13: 59%
  • April 29: 52%
  • April 15: 48%
  • April 1: 49%
  • March: 64%
  • February: 77%

Home prices haven’t been impacted negatively by the coronavirus pandemic — yet. In fact, the number of agents who say prices are on the rise increased 81% compared to two weeks ago.

On the decline

  • May 27: 4% of agents said prices were on the decline
  • May 13: 6%
  • April 29: 10%
  • April 15: 19%

Holding steady

  • May 27: 58% of agents said prices were holding steady
  • May 13: 72%
  • April 29: 78%
  • April 15: 76%

On the rise

  • May 27: 38% of agents said prices were on the rise
  • May 13: 21%
  • April 29: 12%
  • April 15: 6%

Only 13% of agents have seen seller activity in their market continue to decline. Compare that to the week of April 15, when 78% of agents reported a decline in seller activity.

  • May 27: 13% have seen seller activity generally decline in the past two weeks
  • May 13: 20%
  • April 29: 77%
  • April 15: 78%
  • April 1: 76%
  • March: 41%

Over 85% of agents say that in the past two weeks, they haven’t seen any sellers take their homes off the market.

  • May 27: 14% said they’ve seen sellers take their home off the market in the past two weeks
  • May 13: 22%
  • April 29: 66%
  • April 15: 63%
  • April 1: 66%
  • March: 22%

Virtually all agents are seeing a rise in buyer activity.

  • May 27: 3% of agents have seen buyer activity decline in the past two weeks
  • May 13: 11%
  • April 29: 63%
  • April 15: 74%
  • April 1: 78%
  • March: 45%

And few buyers who recently started their search have hit pause in May.

  • May 27: 18% of agents have seen buyers pause their home search in the past two weeks
  • May 13: 32%
  • April 29: 81%
  • April 15: 84%
  • April 1: 87%
  • March: 52%

The demand for virtual tours appears to have peaked mid-April, now that buyers, sellers, and agents are more familiar with cleaning procedures and protocols for traditional showings in this environment.

  • May 27: 41% of agents have seen an increase in the demand for virtual showings
  • May 13: 53%
  • April 29: 66%
  • April 15: 73%
  • April 1: 54%
  • March: 20%

Agent optimism has now surpassed Q4 2019 levels.

Percent of agents optimistic about the 2020 housing market:

  • May 27, 2020: 82%
  • May 13, 2020: 68%
  • April 29, 2020: 68%
  • April 15, 2020: 64%
  • March 2020: 56%
  • November 2019: 76%

*Respondents were surveyed between May 26-31, 2020, with 661 real estate agents participating nationwide.

Week of May 13, 2020: A rebound afoot?

After a frigid start to spring, the housing market is showing signs of life once again. According to our latest Flash Poll of nearly 1,000 agents across the country, the real estate business is picking up steam, agent optimism is nearly back to Q4 2019 levels, and home prices remain isolated from the economic havoc wrought by the coronavirus — at least for now.

March brought a vampire tooth dip in agent sentiment, market strength, and real estate activity on both the buy and sell sides. April muddled along as Americans stumbled in the pitch black. May’s data indicates many have picked up a flashlight and shined it toward a way forward. Whether that’s through the safety of virtual showings or with masks and the social distance practices, it’s in the name of navigating a new world.

Are we out of the woods with smooth sailing ahead?

Impossible to say (and doubtful when you look at the alarming unemployment figures). But you can’t deny that the data trends at least in the real estate sphere look a lot better than they did.

Here’s a summary of our latest numbers:

Reports of “slower than normal business” improve for the first time since the outbreak.

Our data showed the percent of agents who say their business is growing despite current circumstances nearly doubled over the past few weeks. For the first time since we started asking this question in April, there was a drop in agents who said business was slower than normal, as more agents moved into the “steady” or “growing” camps.

  • 51% of agents describe business as slower than normal but still doing deals (down from 67%)
  • 24% say their business is actually growing despite current circumstances (up from 13%)
  • 20% describe their business as steady or about the same as before the pandemic (up from 13%)
  • 5% say their business has come screeching to a halt (down from 8% two weeks ago)
  • No agents polled say their business is on hold for now / they’ve deliberately stepped out of the market

Buyer and seller dropout rates continue to decline.

May 13 – Agents estimate that:

  • 30% of sellers in their market have dropped out
  • 29% of buyers in their market have dropped out

April 29 – Agents estimate that:

  • 33% of sellers in their market have dropped out
  • 35% of buyers in their market have dropped out

April 15 – Agents estimate that:

  • 37% of sellers in their market have dropped out
  • 43% of buyers in their market have dropped out

Buyers and sellers are more likely to be starting to resume their plans than they were a few weeks ago. 

As of mid-May, agents report that sellers who hit pause due to coronavirus are generally:

  • Delaying for a couple more months: 45% (down from 58%)
  • Starting to resume their plans: 34% (up from 26%)
  • Stepping out indefinitely: 4% (down from 5%)
  • Have already resumed their plans: 8% (up from 2%)
  • N/A (haven’t seen any sellers step out): 9% (unchanged)

Buyers who hit pause are:

  • Delaying for a couple more months: 40% (down from 51%)
  • Starting to resume their plans: 35% (up from 32%)
  • Stepping out indefinitely: 4% (down from 7%)
  • Have already resumed their plans: 11% (up from 4%)
  • N/A (haven’t seen any sellers step out): 7% (down from 10%)

Reports of a “seller’s market” rose 7 percentage points, indicating that the market is regaining some of the strength it lost in March and April.

  • May 13: 59% said it was a seller’s market
  • April 29: 52%
  • April 15: 48%
  • April 1: 49%
  • March: 64%
  • February: 77%

Home prices haven’t been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, the percent of agents who say prices are on the rise has more than tripled from April to May. 

On the decline

  • May 13: 19% of agents said prices were on the decline
  • April 29: 10%
  • April 15: 6%

Holding steady 

  • May 13: 76% of agents said prices were holding steady
  • April 29: 78%
  • April 15: 73%

On the rise

  • May 13: 21% of agents said prices were on the rise
  • April 29: 12%
  • April 15: 6%

Over the past two weeks, only 21% of agents have seen seller activity in their market continue to decline, a huge improvement over March and April.

 

  • May 13: 21% have seen seller activity generally decline in the past two weeks
  • April 29: 77%
  • April 15: 78%
  • April 1: 76%
  • March: 41%

For-sale signs are staying up. The percent of agents who’ve said they’ve seen sellers take their homes off the market over the past two weeks dropped by a third compared to declines seen since the coronavirus outbreak first intensified.

  • May 13: 21% said they’ve seen sellers take their home off the market in the past two weeks
  • April 29: 66%
  • April 15: 63%
  • April 1: 66%
  • March: 22%

Drastically fewer agents are saying they’ve seen buyer activity decline in the past two weeks.  

  • May 13: 11% of agents have seen buyer activity decline in the past two weeks
  • April 29: 63%
  • April 15: 74%
  • April 1: 78%
  • March: 45%

And very few buyers who recently started their search have hit pause in May. 

  • May 13: 11% of agents have seen buyers pause their home search in the past two weeks
  • April 29: 81%
  • April 15: 84%
  • April 1: 87%
  • March: 52%

As fewer agents note a continued demand for virtual tours, it appears people are becoming more comfortable with traditional showings again, albeit with precautions like masks and thorough cleanings.

  • May 13: 53% of agents have seen an increase in the demand for virtual showings
  • April 29: 66%
  • April 15: 73%
  • April 1: 54%
  • March: 20%

Once tempered-optimism among agents is strengthening into full-fledged optimism.

  • While the percent of agents who reported being somewhat or extremely optimistic remained level at 68% in May over April, digging into the data further you see that the share of “extremely” optimistic agents rose from 22% to 26%. That’s only two percentage points short of the number of extremely optimistic agents in November 2019 (28%).

*Respondents were surveyed between May 13-18, 2020, with 972 real estate agents participating nationwide.

Week of April 29, 2020: Signs of stabilization

As the month of April comes to a close, overall real estate activity and agent optimism about the rest of 2020 appear to be stabilizing. After the coronavirus delivered an initial blow to the market in March — and agent sentiment dropped acutely as a result — we’re seeing a change in outlook from shock to resilience in operating successfully in a new, albeit challenging, environment.

While agents report that 58% of sellers and 51% of buyers who initially dropped out of the market will delay plans for a few more months, they also say that about a third of clients on both the buy and sell sides have already started to resume their plans.

On average, agents estimate that inventory remains at a 3-months supply level, well within seller’s market territory to keep home prices steady for now.

But how long that will last is uncertain. 

This week, jobless claims reached 30 million. Speculation of a 2020 great depression continues to mount. We anticipate that the strength of the housing market will inevitably be put to the test in coming months under pressure from a ravaged economy.

As the logistics to buying and selling real estate in a pandemic are ironed out, and some clients start inquiring about testing the waters again, the challenge ahead for agents may be staying nimble amid changing market conditions.

Time will tell. In the meantime, here’s a summary of our latest data:

Could the real estate business be picking up slightly?

Our data showed the percent of agents who say their business is growing rose a bit, and fewer agents say their business has come screeching to a halt.

  • 67% of agents describe business as slower than normal but still doing deals 
  • 13% describe their business as steady or about the same as before the pandemic 
  • 13% say their business is actually growing despite current circumstances (up from 8% two weeks ago) 
  • 8% say their business has come screeching to a halt (down from 13% two weeks ago) 
  • No agents polled say their business is on hold for now / they’ve deliberately stepped out of the market

Buyer and seller dropout rates appear to be easing a bit.


% of sellers estimated to have dropped out:
April 29: 33%
April 15: 37%

% of buyers estimated to have dropped out:
April 29: 35%
April 15: 43%

Agents believe the majority of buyers and sellers who hit pause will stay on the sidelines for a couple more months. About a third, agents say, are starting to resume their plans. Very few have jumped back in fully yet.

As of April 29, agents report that sellers who hit pause due to coronavirus are generally:

  • Delaying for a couple more months: 58%
  • Starting to resume their plans: 26%
  • Stepping out indefinitely: 5%
  • Have already resumed their plans: 2%
  • N/A (haven’t seen any sellers step out): 9%

Buyers who hit pause are:

  • Delaying for a couple more months: 52%
  • Starting to resume their plans: 32%
  • Stepping out indefinitely: 7%
  • Have already resumed their plans: 4%
  • N/A (haven’t seen any sellers step out): 7%

Reports of a “seller’s market” held steady this week but are still down from March and February.

  • April 29: 52% said it was a seller’s market
  • April 15: 48% 
  • April 1: 49%
  • March: 64%
  • February: 77%

Prices are still holding steady in most markets:

  • April 29: 78% of agents said prices were holding steady 
  • April 15: 73% of agents said prices were holding steady

Entry-level inventory is the easiest to sell in these conditions:

  • 55% say homes $250,000 are most likely to move
  • 29% say homes between $250,001-$500,000 are most likely to move

Over three-quarters of agents still say that seller activity is down.

  • April 29: 77% said they’ve seen seller activity decline
  • April 15: 78% 
  • April 1: 76%
  • March: 41%

The percent of agents who’ve said they’ve seen sellers take their homes off the market didn’t change significantly over the past two weeks. 

  • April 29: 66% said they’ve seen sellers take their home off the market
  • April 15: 63%
  • April 1: 66%
  • March: 22%

Fewer agents are saying they’ve seen buyer activity decline. 

  • April 29: 63%
  • April 15: 74% 
  • April 1: 78%
  • March: 45%

The percent of agents who’ve said they’ve seen buyers pause their home search held fairly steady.

  • April 29: 81% of agents have seen buyers pause their home search
  • April 15: 84%
  • April 1: 87%
  • March: 52%

As the demand for virtual showings slows a bit, people may be resuming more traditional real estate activities.

  • April 29: 66% of agents have seen an increase in the demand for virtual showings
  • April 15: 73% 
  • April 1: 54%
  • March: 20%

Agent optimism rose modestly.

  • April 29:
    68% were extremely or somewhat optimistic about the 2020 housing market
  • April 15:
    64% were extremely or somewhat optimistic about the 2020 housing market
  • March:
    56% were extremely or somewhat optimistic about the 2020 housing market
  • November:
    76% were extremely or somewhat optimistic about the 2020 housing market

*Respondents were surveyed between April 29-30, 2020, with 358 real estate agents participating nationwide.

Week of April 15, 2020:  A ‘new normal’

A little over halfway into the month of April, the housing market seems to have settled into somewhat of a “new normal” — sluggish but still pressing on — with no drastic changes since our latest poll conducted April 1 except that the demand for virtual showings spiked again.

Nearly half of agents across the nation still say it’s a seller’s market. Agents estimate on average that 37% of sellers and 43% of buyers have hit pause (a new question we asked agents this round), but three-quarters say prices are holding steady. Time will tell how severe job losses across the country over a short time span will add additional pressure to home sales moving forward.

Here’s a summary of our latest data:

Agents remain open for business.

  • 99% of agents surveyed are still accepting new clients.

Since the beginning of April, there hasn’t been much change in how agents’ businesses are faring.
The majority of agents still have work to do and clients coming are to them for help, just at a slower pace than is typical:

  • 67% of agents describe business as slower than normal but still doing deals
  • 13% say their business has come screeching to a halt
  • 12% describe their business as steady or about the same as before the pandemic
  • 8% say their business is actually growing despite current circumstances
  • Only 0.5% say their business is on hold for now / they’ve deliberately stepped out of the market

Reports of a “seller’s market” held steady this week but are still down from March and February.

  • April 15: 48% said it was a seller’s market
  • April 1: 49%
  • March: 64%
  • February: 77%

The overall drop in seller activity appears to be slowing. 

  • April 15: 78% said they’ve seen seller activity decline
  • April 1: 76%
  • March: 41%

The percent of agents who’ve said they’ve seen sellers take their homes off the market held steady.

  • April 15: 63% said they’ve seen sellers take their home off the market
  • April 1: 66%
  • March: 22%

The overall drop in buyer activity also appears to be leveling off. 

  • April 15: 74%
  • April 1: 78%
  • March: 45%

The percent of agents who’ve said they’ve seen buyers pause their home search also held steady.

  • April 15: 84%
  • April 1: 87%
  • March: 52%

While the vast majority of agents have seen some drop in real estate activity on both the buy and sell sides, over half of buyers and sellers appear to be carrying on.
Meanwhile, buyers appear to be dropping out at a slightly higher rate than sellers, but not by much. On average across markets, agents estimate that:

  • 37% of sellers in their market have dropped out
  • 43% of buyers in their market have dropped out

As people look for ways to buy and sell safely while still practicing social distancing, the demand for virtual showings spiked again.

  • April 15: 73% of agents have seen an increase in the demand for virtual showings
  • April 1: 54%
  • March: 20%

Over half of agents believe we’re already in a recession or will hit a recession before the end of 2020.

  • April 15:
    30% say we’re already in a recession; 23% say we’ll hit a recession before the end of 2020
  • March:
    40% said we’ll hit a recession before the end of 2020
  • November 2019:
    12% said we’ll hit a recession before the end of 2020

But agent optimism has actually bounced back a bit since March.

  • April 15:
    64% are extremely or somewhat optimistic about the 2020 housing market
  • March:
    56% were extremely or somewhat optimistic about the 2020 housing market
  • November:
    76% were extremely or somewhat optimistic about the 2020 housing market

As far as how agents are adapting to the coronavirus…
The biggest change we saw over the past two weeks was an increase in those doubling down on virtual tours:

  • 84% have shut down open houses.
  • 68% are leaning into e-signature and digital closing tools.
  • 66% are doubling down on virtual tours (up from 55% April 1).
  • 59% are replacing in-person client meetings with virtual ones.
  • 56% are working with inspectors to implement new safety protocols around property inspections.
  • 46% are restricting or eliminating physical showings.
  • 31% are adapting to alternative appraisal methods for their clients.

*Respondents were surveyed between April 15-16, 2020, with 382 real estate agents participating nationwide. 

Week of April 1, 2020: Not the spring anyone hoped for

Buyers were the first to change their behavior in the wake of the coronavirus, but sellers are following suit. This could create a situation where only the most motivated buyers and sellers transact right now, the total number of sales chills significantly, but the scales remain fairly balanced.

  • Agents are mostly open for business: 97% of agents surveyed are still accepting new clients. 67% of agents describe their business as slower than normal, but still doing deals.
  • 53% of agents would generally advise buyers: Continue your home search if you must buy, while taking necessary safety precautions. 45% would advise the same to sellers. 48% say they’re generally not advising sellers either way but giving clients the facts and helping them do what they think is best.
  • Reports of a “seller’s market” continue to drop: We’re now down from 64% in mid-March to 49% in April.
  • Number of agents reporting that seller activity is down in their market has nearly doubled since mid-March from ~40% to 76%. Meanwhile the percent of agents who’ve seen sellers take their homes off the market has risen from 22% to 66%.
  • More and more buyers are stepping out, too. 78% of agents have seen buyer activity generally decline in their market, compared to 45% two weeks ago. 87% of agents now say they’ve seen buyers pause their home search, up from 52% from our last poll.
  • The demand for virtual showings is soaring — 54% of agents are noting an increase in the demand for remote showings, up from 20% from our last poll.

A HomeLight infographic explaining how coronavirus affects real estate.

Here’s how agents are adapting to coronavirus:

  • 84% have shut down open houses.
  • 68% are leaning into e-signature and digital closing tools.
  • 55% are doubling down on virtual tours.
  • 54% are replacing in-person client meetings with virtual ones.
  • 51% are working with inspectors to implement new safety protocols around property inspections.
  • 44% are restricting or eliminating physical showings.
  • 33% are adapting to alternative appraisal methods for their clients.

*Respondents were surveyed between April 1-2, 2020, with 339 real estate agents participating nationwide. 

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