The Seattle area that was the initial hot spot for the coronavirus outbreak in the United States saw the real estate market pause when the stay at home order was issued. After a revision to the order allowing real estate to function under modified rules with safe distancing we’ve seen things take off again over the past couple weeks. Despite the stay at home order still in place there have been a surprising level of home purchases happening combined with multiple offers, bidding wars and all cash offers shortly after listings go live. Although in person showings are constrained to two people at a time in a house and open houses are ceased buyers have turned out and continued the trends we saw to start out 2020.


We put a fixer listing on the market in Tacoma last weekend and had 5 offers in less than 24 hours with all except one at the list price and above. Our clients ended up accepting an offer that was 13% above the list price with all contingencies waived. A fellow broker we know working with clients in Bellevue submitted four offers over the past week in the $1m range and all were outbid by other buyers.


It seems that the Seattle area tech industry is helping to keep our housing market surprisingly resilient from a market downturn so far. With Microsoft, Google, Amazon and other tech companies workers transitioning to working from home and even ramping up hiring to meet consumer demand for a changed market and world by the impact of the coronavirus. Amazon is in the middle of a huge hiring ramp up and with the headquarters in Seattle there are a huge number of positions being filled and needing to be filled. There continues to be tech employed buyers looking to move throughout the Seattle suburbs to find affordable housing and we also have new residents moving into the area from out of state for these new positions.


What is also affecting the market at this point is that impact supply is having on the way the market is functioning. We have construction currently shut down so builders are stuck with their products in various states of completion thereby removing those properties from being part of the typical inventory “supply” until construction gets started again. In addition to that some home sellers removed their homes from the market or are not putting their house on during the typical busy spring season. All of this is decreasing the inventory in the Seattle area with the number of new listings down nearly 67% from a year ago. Despite the lower inventory the number of houses and condos sold in the first weeks of April was higher than the same period in each of the past two years! And that’s after a 9% increase in pending sales in March in the Seattle area compared to a year ago according to data from the Northwest MLS.


So far it seems like we are dealing with a market that has smaller inventory vs demand than we were in to start the year. Which means for buyers it could be even more challenging than we were thinking things might in 2020 if the inventory doesn’t increase to meet with demand that as of now seems to have not dropped much or at all. The buyers whose employment is not affected by the corona virus may be dealing with multiple offers and waiving of contingencies on the limited number of properties they have to choose from. That type of market requires working with a broker experienced in it; how to craft offers to standout and be successful among competition as we have been over our many years doing real estate in the Seattle area.


For people considering selling in this market there will likely be opportunities that wouldn’t typically be around in a market with higher more balanced inventory. An extreme sellers market, as it looks like we may be in, presents a seller with the chance to not only get top dollar for their home but also the potential for above list price offers and waiving of typical contingencies such as inspection. Effective pricing and marketing of a property including new media such as virtual tours will help insure that a seller can take full advantage of the opportunity that may be present in the upcoming months. A sellers market with little inventory should continue to push up sale prices and home values so it will be very interesting to see if that continues to offset the potential negative effects the coronavirus could have on real estate in the Seattle area as it has so far.


If you or someone you know is considering buying or selling in this unique market we'd love to help and provide you with the input and guidance needed to take advantage of the opportunities available and be successful.