Six months ago or more, an appraisal on a home $50,000 below its listing price would have likely stalled the home’s sale.
But when it happened a few weeks ago on the Mid-Shore, the buyer didn’t bat an eye, offering to pay the full asking price.
It’s just one example of how a variety of factors, set off by the coronavirus pandemic, have made real estate on the Mid-Shore much sought after by people wanting to leave urban areas.
“I don’t think this is an isolated incident,” said Judy Germain-Dinges, President of the Mid-Shore Board of Realtors and Realtor for Benson & Mangold. “Serious buyers are in the market.”
Germain-Dinges and other area realtors say the Mid-Shore is in the midst of an extremely fast-moving market.
Homes are getting offers the first day they are put up for sale.
Bidding wars are becoming more common.
For months since the pandemic began, homes have sold at the asking price or higher.
“The Eastern Shore real estate market has definitely been a shining light in the current economic situation,” said Billy Sutton, Realtor for Caldwell Banker Chesapeake in Chestertown. “There seems to be a new appreciation of what home truly means, which has been coupled with all-time low mortgage rates to push the housing market upward through the health crisis.”
A drastic reduction in local inventory plays a big role.
Lowered interest rates also are helping encourage sales but agents say the pandemic has been very much a tipping point for people considering a second home or ditching the big city for the shore’s open spaces.
“Buyers are searching for a sense of more space in their homelife,” Germain-Dinges said. “We’re blessed with waterfront and all kinds of panoramic views. People are flocking to the area.”
Sutton said while sales in mid-March and April slowed slightly, buyer demand since then has only increased. He said the housing inventory on the Upper Shore has been whittled down to almost 50 percent of what was available a year ago and statewide, home values have increased more than 8 percent since July of 2019.
“There is a huge imbalance right now in supply vs. demand. Almost every day for the past several months more homes have sold than have come to the market for sale,” Sutton said.
Trey Rider, real estate professional at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty said properties with multiple amenities are most popular.
Since May, he said he’s seen 450 percent increase in pending sales on properties set at $1 million or more.
Buyers are looking for homes with a pool, home office, and other things they previously would have left the home to use, he said.
Along with home owners reaping the benefit of the face-paced market, Rider said it’s generating economic activity with contractors to make updates on the homes, and with pool and boat dealers where new homeowners are adding items to enhance their living experience.
“I think our local region is going to be insulated because of this injection of wealth,” Rider said. “I think we are going to be protected.”
As teleworking and online learning became the norm for many families this spring, it removed two once sturdy barriers from moving.
“When you remove that need, you can live anywhere.” said Debbie Lipscomb, a Benson & Mangold Realtor.
Some of the recent buyers Lipscomb has worked with have moved up their retirement plans or relocated to the Eastern Shore because they can buy more thn where rhey were living.
“My buyers primarily have been looking for a second home with the intention of being here a lot more than you normally would with a typical second home,” Lipscomb said.
Living in Washington D.C., before the pandemic, Lucy Hynes and her family were close to restaurants, museums, events and parks, all the things a city could offer.
“All of that for the most part has been shut down or limited in some form,” Hynes said. “The things we like about the city were gone.”
With so few options in the city, what they didn’t have began to stand out much more than what they did have.
“My kids didn’t have any grass they could go out and play on,” she said.
An online listing brought them to Oxford and four weeks later they had found a home to move to for the foreseeable future.
“It’s just more peaceful out here,” she said. “You cross the Bay Bridge and it’s like a breath of fresh air, and that’s even more apparent when you get to Oxford.”
When they first began looking at homes, they noted listings that have been on the market for six months or more, Hynes said, but they soon saw listings vanish at an increasing rate as their search continued.
“We could feel the pace picking up so when we came back we knew we needed to jump on it,” Hynes said.
For homeowners on the Shore having thoughts of selling, realtors said they should consult an experienced agent as soon as possible to make a plan.
Lipscomb said buyers are coming in motivated to buy but are also well-researched on listings so being realistic with an asking price is important.
“For people in the right situation, it could be the perfect time to sell,” she said. “Have an idea of what you want to do. Things move very quickly.”
Sutton said basic tips to prepare a home for sale include decluttering, cleaning, painting, catching up on any deferred maintenance, and a getting a pre-listing home inspection to eliminate any future surprises.
“Given our current market conditions, I would also say to start packing,” he added.