All across the U.S., COVID-19 is having unparalleled and unexpected effects on housing sales. In spite of expectations, sales are booming. Traffic on mobile applications like Zillow and websites like Realtor.com is up by up to 50% in nearly all markets, according to Forbes, and a growing number of Americans are buying their first homes or purchasing more spacious and more expensive ones.
Moreover, one of the healthiest real estate markets right now is right at home in Rochester, NY. “Five of America’s hottest real estate markets are in New England (plus New York State) — Melrose, MA, Portland, ME, Hudson, NH, Worcester, MA, and Rochester, NY — each of which ranked in the top ten across more than three categories including lowest days on market, list-to-sale ratio, or page views per-property,” Forbes writes.
Here is a closer look at the Rochester real estate market now and predictions for what it will look like in the near future.
Pushing Through The Brunt Of The Pandemic
In order to understand the impact of the pandemic on real estate sales or lack thereof, it is important to know how things played out in the thick of things. During the brunt of the pandemic or the statewide lockdowns, realtors temporarily saw fewer listings, according to Rochester First. During March 2020, listings dropped by 50%.
The number of listings quickly rebounded and as early as one month later, in April 2020, when “real estate was considered limited-essential again,” Rochester First continues.
In a surprising twist of fate, some things did not change at all. Andy Kachaylo, President of the Greater Rochester Association of Realtors (GRAR), states that demand remained constant or as high as ever, interest rates remained low, and people continued to purchase houses.
Against All Odds, The Rochester Housing Market Continues To Thrive
Data from the National Association of REALTORS reveals that Americans bought 5.34 million existing homes in 2019. How do nationwide sales compare to sales in Rochester? What is the outlook for new home sales and existing home sales in the area?
As Kachaylo suggests, it’s very good. In fact, not only did Rochester steal a spot as one of the top real estate markets in New England, but it also ranks as one of the “the hottest metro areas” to purchase a new home, according to Investor’s Business Daily. These areas include Rochester, NY, Fresno, CA, Bakersfield, CA, Stockton-Lodi, CA, Colorado Springs, CO, Portland, ME, Columbus, OH, Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA, and Allentown-Bethlehem, PA.
Realtor.com data ranked these cities as the hottest metro areas based on the number of property views and the amount of time a particular property spent on the market.
Rochester may also present an advantage by being a small city. Homeowners prefer the relative quiet of Rochester compared to, say, New York City. Rochester is an alternative to living in the middle of nowhere without being too busy.
Important Notes For First-Time Home Buyers
Last year, first-time homebuyers comprised an impressive one-quarter of all homebuyers in Florida. That number is lower in New York State, but — with the impressive Rochester real estate market — it is catching up.
If you plan to count yourself among New York State and/or Rochester’s first-time homebuyers, go into the process with knowledge and insider tips. Consider the following:
- Homes are going fast. You need to know your stuff. “RE/MAX experts say some homes in Rochester are spending just a day on the market before being sold,” Rochester First reports. That may seem like a daunting statistic, but it does not have to be. Do research online. Ask friends and family for personal experiences. Attend free seminars for first-time homebuyers. Look for ones sponsored by local not-for-profit organizations to avoid bias from organizations who may have a personal stake in you buying your first home.
- Shop around for a mortgage. While interest rates in Rochester are low — very low, according to GRAR’s Kachaylo, it is still wise to shop around to find the best mortgage rate. “The seller should not require that you use a particular mortgage bank,” New York Attorney General Letitia James advises first-time home buyers.
- Know how to hold sellers to requested repairs. If sellers agree to complete a particular repair or repairs after the home inspection, do not simply take their word for it. Get the agreement in writing. Make sure to clearly state and itemize requested repairs. In such an agreement, the seller must complete the repairs before the sale can go through. Failing that, ask to enter into a repair escrow agreement for any uncompleted repairs. That way, the seller contributes to an account with the appropriate funds for the repairs. If they complete them, the seller gets the money back. If not, the funds will go toward your closing costs.
Already Own A Home? Here Is What Sellers Should Expect
If you are selling an existing home and are in the market for a new one, things change somewhat.
First, you want to consider the bigger picture. What upgrades can you make around the home that will help make your home more attractive to prospective buyers in Rochester? Improving curb appeal, repainting, or renovating the bathroom and kitchen are the big ones. If you are selling in the next year or next few years but not immediately, consider upgrades that you can enjoy while boosting the value of your home. For example, adding a swimming pool adds 7% to your home’s value.
If you are selling immediately, remember that many homeowners rely on selling their old home in order to pay closing costs for their new one. If that is the case for you, there is some good news. According to Rochester First, NYS homes spend just 85 days on the market, sale prices are up, and real estate agents have discovered ways to show and sell homes quickly while in accordance with COVID-19 safety guidelines.
For current and would-be Rochester residents, there is one overwhelming truth: the real estate market is booming and it will continue to thrive in the coming months. Take advantage of the market that is — thankfully — going strong in spite of COVID-19.