Although the U.S. is gripped by the cornonavirus outbreak, there was some good news for the real estate industry as existing home sales performed better than expected, with three out of four regions showing an increase in sales, according to National Association of Realtors' data.
The NAR said total existing home sales, which includes single-family, townhouse, condo, and co-op transactions, rose by 6.5% last month, reaching a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.77 million. Sales were up 7.2% compared to a year ago, the NAR added.
“February’s sales of over 5 million homes were the strongest since February 2007,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “I would attribute that to incredibly low mortgage rates and a steady release of sizable pent-up housing demand that was built over recent years.”
Yun said the impact of the coronavirus outbreak would be felt more keenly in March, but said he believes any impact on the industry will be short lived.
“Once the social distancing and quarantine measures are relaxed, we should see this temporary pause evaporate and potential buyers return [to the market] with the same enthusiasm,” Yun said.
Yun also said that the combination of a shortage of available homes, and the low mortgage rates, would help to drive the housing market forward later this year. He believes home prices will continue to stay elevated.
“Unlike the stock market, home prices are not expected to drop because of the ongoing housing shortage,” he said.
The NAR also noted that many real estate professionals are having to adapt the way they do business due to the restrictions on social gatherings.
“It is truly inspiring to see so many of our fellow realtors and brokerages adjust on the fly,” NAR President Vince Malta said in a statement. “Agents nationwide are keeping consumer interest alive with innovative technologies, holding virtual open houses and computer-generated tours.”