(Un)Reality

A deadly pandemic, a recession — and record home buying. A look at the new reality that buyers, builders and real estate agents are facing
'Flight to the suburbs is real.' (Mask Photo: Chutidech Chaisab, Dreamstime.com)

Americans are facing a lot of uncertainty following the outbreak of COVID-19 this spring. Unemployment skyrocketed, schools were closed, and hospitals braced for a disease that, as of mid-August, had claimed the lives of 167,000 Americans, according to a New York Times analysis of state and local data.

In Colorado, over 51,000 people have been infected and more than 1,880 have died since the start of the pandemic, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and the State Emergency Operations Center. Eagle and Gunnison counties have been hardest hit, where the sick account for a larger share of their smaller populations compared to Denver, Adams or Arapahoe counties.

[Related: What does a ‘new normal’ look like for builders?]

The wide-ranging impact of this crisis means no industry or individual has been spared from its influence. We’re all adjusting to new ways of working and new realities for our businesses and our lives.

Buyers not backing down

After an initial decline, the housing market rebounded with a vengeance this summer. In Denver, monthly closings increased almost 8% in July, and prices increased over 6%. The average price for a detached single-family home in the Denver market was $601,863.

“Denver metro area real estate posted a number of records in July even while the daily number of COVID-19 cases reached record daily levels in the U.S.,” according to Jill Schafer, a broker at Kentwood Cherry Creek and chair of the Market Trends Committee for the Denver Metro Association of Realtors. “Buyers were not slowed by the pandemic as June’s record number of pending sales converted to an all-time high in the number of closings in any one month on record.”

[Related: Real estate market is red hot]

Schafer pointed to pent-up demand and lack of inventory driving competition between buyers.

It’s not just Denver. Colorado’s smaller counties are also enjoying more closings. In June, Lake County saw closings increase 61.5% over last year, and closings in Custer County rose 58.3%, according to data from the Colorado Association of Realtors. 

“With interest rates being so low, there are more people interested in buying now than ever before. We’re getting hit really hard with a refinance boom because of the low rate,” noted Renee Boulet, a loan officer at New American Funding. “Loan officers were refinancing their own homes a month ago because we didn’t think rates could get any lower, and sure as heck, they’re lower this month,” she told Colorado Builder in late July.

Financing is cheap, but hard to come by

“Due to COVID, a lot of lenders are no longer offering jumbo financing. They’ve completely suspended altogether. A lot of them are no longer doing down payment assistance loans for first-time homebuyers,” New American’s Boulet said.

Her company is still offering those products, but she noted that a lot of typical jumbo borrowers are self-employed, making those loans risky.

Danielle Andrus

Editor, Colorado Builder Magazine

Danielle Andrus has 284 posts and counting. See all posts by Danielle Andrus

2 thoughts on “(Un)Reality

  • September 26, 2020 at 9:42 am
    Permalink

    Dear Danielle:

    As of this article posting today there are 206,899 COVID-19 deaths reported in the US. Please update this figure for your readers. There is a big difference in the statistics noted in the article.

    Thank you!

    ONwards and UPwards with CDC Health Protocols!

    Robert

    • October 6, 2020 at 1:29 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Robert, 

      As noted in the article, the statistic cited refers to the number of deaths as of mid-August when the article was written. There will be more deaths, and it’s not the aim of this article to keep up with the ongoing death toll due to COVID-19, but to illustrate the difficult times builders are working in these days. 

      Thanks for reading.

      Best,
      Danielle

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