Pandemic Helps Boost Real Estate To Record Levels

By: Tim Wood

The pandemic has ushered in a hot real estate market on Cape Cod. FILE PHOTO


Looking at the real estate sales figures for June, you'd never know we're in the midst of a pandemic.

“In 30 years in the business, I think this is the busiest I've ever been,” said Sandra Tanco, a broker with Kinlin Grover Real Estate in Harwich Port.

A combination of pent up demand, low inventory and interest in second homes — driven largely by the pandemic — broke real estate records on the Cape in June, according to the Cape Cod and Islands Association of Realtors.

In Chatham and Harwich, both pending and closed sales were up, with Chatham leading the way with a 200 percent increase in sales over last June, according to the association.

“For whatever reason, there is a belief the Cape is a 'safe haven,'” said Tony Guthrie of Robert Paul Properties in Chatham.

Capewide, June closings were down due to the economic downturn and mobility restrictions imposed by the pandemic. But the number of single-family homes and condominiums going under contract in June in Barnstable County broke an all-time record at 781. That will translate into higher sales activity in July and August, according to Ryan Castle, chief executive officer of the association.

“Pending is a key metric as it shows the activity in the market and sets up busy months in July and August for closed home sales,” he said in a press release. Buyer demand and historically low levels of homes available for sale — single-family homes listed on the Cape and Islands Multiple Listing Service in June were down 38 percent from the same time last year — is “unprecedented,” Castle said, though he added there are “still key questions that need to be answered as we move forward to see if this is going to be an ongoing trend or temporary spike.”

For June, pending sales of single-family homes were up 181 percent over last year, from 16 to 45; in Harwich, pending sales were up 23.1 percent, from 26 to 32; and in Orleans, pending sales were up 170 percent, from 10 to 27.

Closed single-family home sales in Chatham for the month were 33, up 200 percent from the 11 sales last June. In Harwich, 31 sales closed, a 29.2 percent increase. Orleans showed a slight decrease in closings in June, down 18.8 percent from 16 to 13.

Median single-family home sale prices in Chatham were down 10.8 percent, from $768,000 last June to $685,000 last month; in Harwich, the median price was up 14.6 percent, from $497,500 to $570,000, and in Orleans median sale prices increased 26.2 percent from $787,500 to $994,000.

In Barnstable County in June, closed single-family home sales were down 2.1 percent over June 2019, from 428 to 419, while pending sales were up 76 percent for single-family homes and 32 percent for condominiums. The single-family median home sale price for the county was $475,000 this June, up 5.8 percent over last June.

Contracts and sales span all price ranges, said Tanco.

“I can't think of one that's not busy, even the high end,” she said.

Guthrie said buyers include empty nesters and city dwellers seeking a second residence in an area perceived as safe where they can work from home. “We've seen a group of younger buyers buying in the area,” he said of the latter group.

Both Guthrie and Tanco said they see the trend continuing into the fall. “It seems people want to get a place to use this fall and winter as the pandemic continues,” Guthrie said. The biggest challenge, both said, is inventory.

Tanco, who usually lists homes in the Harwich and Lower Cape area, said she's going as far afield as Barnstable to find listings. Guthrie said buyers are also looking for homes in move-in condition.

“Buyers do not want projects,” he said.

The housing market is a significant element of the Cape's economy, with implications in the construction, services, retail and restaurant industries. “From one sale, it does trickle out to so many people,” Tanco noted. “This is definitely an upturn for our housing market and the economy of Cape Cod.”

Castle said Cape real estate is benefiting as buyers evaluate with life and work situations in light of the pandemic.

“Sad to say, the pandemic has had a very favorable effect on Cape Cod real estate,” Guthrie said. “It's as simple as that.”