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Area housing market strong in first quarter; pandemic likely to hurt current period

The regional housing market got off to a strong start this year, according to a report released Monday by the area Realtors’ association.

The Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors’ first-quarter report showed 837 home sales took place between January and March, a 10% increase from the 764 homes sold in the first quarter of 2019.

CAAR covers Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson counties and the city of Charlottesville.

Tom Woolfolk, CAAR president and an agent with Keller Williams Alliance in Charlottesville, said it was the best first quarter the area has seen in the past four years.

“Going into the whole COVID-19 pandemic, we had a very, very strong market,” he said.

Median home prices also rose in the area during the first quarter of 2020, from $275,775 in the first quarter of 2019 to $302,000 this year, a 10% increase.

Woolfolk attributed the strong market to a good first-quarter economy, including low unemployment, low mortgage interest rates and a lot of demand for housing.

The February unemployment rate in the CAAR footprint was at 2.3%, and the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate during the first week of April was 3.33%, down 0.75 percentage points from a year ago.

All of the localities covered in the report had an increase in the number of sales compared with the first quarter of 2019. Charlottesville saw 110 sales, 13 more than the same period last year, for a 13% increase. Albemarle had 343 sales during the quarter, 34 more than the same period last year, for an 11% increase.

CAAR’s report states that the average time a home was on the market dropped, with homes selling in about 76 days, three days quicker than the first quarter of 2019.

There were approximately 1,392 active listings at the end of the quarter, down 11% from last year, which the report states is the sharpest inventory reduction in the area in more than two years.

“Builders are still building new houses. It’s still not enough,” Woolfolk said. “That’s been ramping up for a while, but demand has been outstripping supply, so we’ve been short on listings.”

He said it’s likely the second quarter of this year is going to be down from the same period last year. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many accommodations have been made in the industry, such as agents doing virtual open houses.

“Then if we’re actually taking buyers out to look at a house, it’s things like everyone has to be masked, you wear gloves, the agent is the one who opens and closes doors, everyone else keeps the hands in their pocket, and then you wipe everything down when you’re done,” Woolfolk said. “This is not rocket science, you just have to be aware of what you’re doing, maintain your distance and keep the group small. But we can still do business.”

Another issue that Woolfolk said he thinks is becoming critical is access to broadband.

“As you see more people trying to work from home, this issue, I think, is going to be getting a lot more attention,” he said.

While CAAR doesn’t have solid numbers yet for the second quarter so far, the organization is monitoring the situation daily.

“In the short term, we’re taking a hit, but it’s not killing us,” Woolfolk said. “Nothing’s collapsing at this point. It’s not 2007-2008, for sure. Nothing like that.”


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