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Virus outbreak threatens to slow York County's fast-moving housing market

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

In a week's time, 76 listings for houses were withdrawn or canceled from the housing market in York County.

That "slightly higher" than average statistic follows a recent downward trend nationwide in home buying as the coronavirus outbreak continues to change the American economy.

York County Realtors aren't panicking yet, though. As of Tuesday, there were 1,019 active listings for York County. For January and February, active listings reached 1,081 and 1,062 respectively, according to the Realtors Association of York and Adams Counties.

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"The number of new listings coming on the market are similar to what we have seen over the past month," said Shanna Terroso, the executive officer for RAYAC. "The number of listings being withdrawn are slightly higher than previous weeks."

A for sale sign in the window of an empty home on Copperwood Court in West Manchester Township, Showings and open house events for real estate sales have been cancelled due to the pandemic while home buying is showing a downward trend, Wednesday, March 25, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Coming off a historic 2019 — which was marked as the fastest-moving market in the county with houses on the market for an average of 23 days — the housing market started off strong in the new decade, according to statistics from RAYAC.

And though the unprecedented escalation of coronavirus may seem like a concern for some real estate agents, officials with RAYAC said Realtors are adapting quickly to shuttered offices by utilizing technology to give virtual tours showcasing properties. 

"While the full impact the pandemic will have on the overall real estate industry is yet to be seen, the good news is, going into the pandemic, the housing market was off to a very strong start," Terroso said. "This will help us in any economic recovery moving forward."

Nationally: In a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors, nearly 48% of  the agents who were surveyed said home buyer interest has decreased.

Caution among both buyers and sellers is linked with a decline in economic confidence and measures taken by officials to combat the spread of COVID-19, such as social distancing and closing nonessential stores, said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR.

Housing logo

NAR's flash survey, conducted March 16-17, sampled 72,734 Realtor members. About 77% of participants said they live in a state that has declared a state of emergency, and about 55% work in a local market where there are presumed or confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Showings, open houses canceled: In York County, RAYAC recommended its agents cease all showings and open houses after Gov. Tom Wolf's declaration urging the closure of nonessential businesses last week.

"The virus affected the stock market, which can affect sellers' and buyers' financial ability to execute agreements," said Sue Pindle, the president of RAYAC. "(The housing market) will recover once the COVID-19 virus is conquered."

Pindle said many prospective buyers are choosing to hold off purchasing houses because of factors including job layoffs and Wolf's order to cease the operations of all non-life-sustaining businesses.

And while the demand is currently lower, that isn't a long-term concern for Realtors, said Jessica Lautz, the vice president of demographics and behavioral insights for NAR.

"It may be difficult at this time for some buyers to comfortably leave their homes due to health concerns of contracting COVID-19," Lautz said via email. "While interest rates are very attractive to buyers, they may feel as if purchasing a home will happen in a few months."

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.