Spring housing market sees boost from relaxed pandemic restrictions

For sale signs like this one have been popping up and being taken down again quickly this spring, due to the increased interest in the housing market.

The housing market typically gets busy in the spring, but this year’s activity is a bit more intense thanks to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Kathy Obermeyer, realtor for ERA Team VP Real Estate and a representative of the McKean County Association of Realtors, explained that the housing market always has young buyers, buying and renovating, or people downsizing or upgrading.

This spring, the market is more competitive because COVID-19 caused a shutdown to the market, limited travel and the ability to see a property if you live a distance away. It also made it difficult for sellers, as even the realtors could not explore the property due to COVID restrictions. Then, the winter weather threw a wrench in as well.

“I’m very optimistic about the 2021 real estate market,” Obermeyer said. “Interest rates are at a low, while homeowner enthusiasm is at a high.”

She explained that, currently, there are more buyers than sellers — which also tends to be the case this time of year. There have been competitive offers on listings this spring, even those that have been on the market for a while are seeing activity because of a new group of buyers interested in the market.

“There are a plethora of buyers, like everywhere else, but the listings for sale are low,” she stated. “One reason for the lack of listings in the spring is the desire to spruce up homes, make repairs and weather-related upgrades prior to putting a property on the market.”

Obermeyer is a member of the McKean County Real Estate Association and said McKean County realtors field calls from all over the country.

She explained real estate agents are sometimes the first representative of the area potential home buyers speak with. This gives the realtor a unique opportunity to represent the community in an honest yet positive light. She noted that many of the potential homebuyers she talked to prior to the COVID-19 pandemic brought a positive impression of the area to their initial conversations.

Small town communities are more attractive to today’s homebuyers.

During COVID-19, people had to re-evaluate items of importance. Homes became more popular as a result. Younger buyers realize they want a yard, for example, or those in the city want to have access to the outdoors and fresh air.

“For some, it’s the simplicity of life in the area — wanting to be able to leave work for a son’s baseball game and having the flexibility to do so,” Obermeyer explained. “Family is a big part of the decision to move to the area — moving closer to family, even if they are not local. For example, a family from the West Coast might choose the area because it is within a few hours’ drive of their family (rather than thousands of miles).”

Buyers have rethought where they want to live and the type of home that they want; they have taken new stock of what’s necessary in life. They may also have realized, after months of staring at the walls of their current home, it’s time to relocate.

The rebirth of small business and the desire to build on creativity with small business have been enhanced from coming out of COVID-19 shutdowns and shortages as well.

There is also an increase in work from home opportunities, meaning the need for a home office is back. “This was a trend eight to 10 years ago and is becoming more popular again,” Obermeyer said.

One factor that hasn’t changed but has drawn renewed interest to areas like ours is that the cost of living in McKean County is significantly less than some areas.

Obermeyer said that she has helped prior University of Pittsburgh at Bradford graduates who enjoyed life here while in college find a home locally. They decide, after they live elsewhere to develop their career, that they can come back to the small community and work from home.

“Whether you are looking to buy or to sell, my advice would be to call a professional for advice,” Obermeyer said. She explained realtors field questions and help people who aren’t aware of the many moving parts of the real estate process, from the legal and financing aspects to the bank requirements. There are also those who have bought a home before but aren’t aware of changes in the process, such as changes in the legal jargon related to real estate paperwork or the importance of a home inspection.

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