Coronavirus outbreak slows, but doesn’t stop, DC-area housing market

In Germantown, Maryland, a house for sale is seen in summer 2019. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)

The new coronavirus outbreak hasn’t slammed the brakes for the D.C. area’s housing market, though there have been noticeable changes in buyer attitude and in how they can compare the homes they are interested in.

“Many buyers and sellers have decided to stay on the sidelines until there is more clarity about how long the coronavirus crisis is likely to last,” Corey Burr, senior vice president at Sotheby’s International Realty in Chevy Chase, Maryland, told WTOP.

“A number of clients say they are going to wait three to four weeks and then reassess the situation,” he said.

He also said new listings continue to come on the market, but not at the typical pace for a March.

Open houses are now nonexistent, with real estate firms and agents shifting to virtual tours, many now including live chat.

Clients are still touring homes with agents, but with social distancing restrictions in place, Redfin’s guidance to its agents limits those tours to no more than two people at a time, prohibits handshaking, and prohibits clients from entering small bathrooms or crawl spaces.

The March market, usually one of the strongest months for listings and sales, is coming off what was a good February in the D.C. region.

Closed sales in Montgomery County, Maryland, were up 24.2% from a year earlier, according to the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors. The median price of what sold in both Montgomery County and D.C., at $436,000 and $589,000, respectively, were both the highest for a February in a decade.

In Northern Virginia, the median price of what sold was $505,000, up 10.9% from a year ago, according to the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors.

NVAR President Nicholas Lagos called COVID-19 a wild card for the local housing market.

“It may be a month or two before we see the effects of the epidemic here and what, if any, adjustments our market may experience,” Lagos said.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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