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Is Anybody Buying a Home In Portland During COVID?

Real estate activity in Portland, and in most of America, came to a screeching halt in mid-March as would-be home buyers and sellers slowed or paused their plans amid initial COVID-19 concerns. The economic disruption from stay-at-home orders deepened and extended the concerns.

So what is happening now? What’s the latest in the Portland housing market?

The number of closed sales and the median sale prices in 2020 rose each month through March, compared to previous months and to the same months in 2019. April saw closed sales fall and the median sale price remain unchanged in a month where we would expect both to rise.

Portland Home Sales April 2020

Portland Home Sale Prices April 2020

We expect May and June to see fewer closed sales, too, as new sale contracts (pending listings) fell in both March and April compared to previous months and to the same months in 2019.

The interesting, and obvious, insight is the distribution of the slow down. We don’t yet have Portland data, but the thirteen western states saw a large difference in March sales activity between lower and higher priced homes. Homes priced below $250,000 saw a 25% to 30% drop in March 2020 sales compared to March 2019, yet homes priced above $250,000 saw a 7% to 8% increase in sales. Right now the value of that is anecdotal, but it fits with the expectation that early job losses were in lower paying jobs while higher paying jobs were still safe. This may also fit with the observed stability in the median sale price, i.e., if fewer lower priced homes sell the median price moves up.

Going forward, we see strong indications of renewed buyer interest. After hitting a two-year low point in mid-March 2020, online home search activity slowly rebounded week over week throughout the rest of the month and into April. Search activity was still low, especially for spring, but it slowly increased each week. In the past two weeks online searches have surged 35% above the same period in May 2019.

Likewise, home visits, as evidenced by lockbox access numbers, have picked up.

Portland Home Showings 05-10-2020

So, does that mean buyers are re-entering the market?

It certainly seems that way.

After pausing home search activity levels in mid-March, the data seems to indicate buyers are coming back into the market. Now, in May, when stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines are being eased, we’re seeing buyer activity levels reach a level we would have expected to see in the early spring had they not been interrupted by COVID-19.

The data points to busy season not being canceled, but delayed by about six weeks. Whether this pushes activity later into the fall or simply condenses the peak home-buying timeline remains to be seen. Regardless, it’s a promising indicator of things to come.