Will the real estate market come roaring back after the pandemic is in our rearview mirror? According to Kate Bertles Hennigan of McEnearney Associates, expect the stellar market to roll on. She recently shared her tips for navigating the big search for home sweet home.
What's the biggest piece of real estate advice you've given your clients during the nationwide pandemic?
To stay the course—this is an artificial blip in the economy, caused by a deliberate change in behavior. Associates at McEnearney have become adept at working digitally and virtually, so we’re able to continue to provide expert advice and guidance on home purchases and sales.
Additionally, this is a great time to look for investments. Some buyers have taken themselves out of the market, reducing competition in some neighborhoods, listing activity in March was up 4% over this time last year. If you’ve been considering an investment property, take advantage.
How have you and your real estate colleagues adjusted to helping clients search for and find the best home during the pandemic?
In this unusual time, everyone has had to change their behaviors and activities. Real estate has been deemed essential in all three jurisdictions, so it’s imperative that we continue to work hard for our clients. The importance of “face to face” communication has never been so apparent. Virtual open houses and showings, facetime or Zoom calls, and electronic signatures are all ways in which we have adapted to keep the trains on the tracks, so to speak.
DC’s market was red hot before March 1—what do you anticipate once social distancing ends?
It’s still red hot. But, of course, we’ve seen some changes—for instance, the scheduled showings for active properties have decreased significantly. Once this is over, the buyers who decided to pause their searches will be back in the market, increasing competition for great properties. I do think we will see a longer spring market that spills into and throughout the summer without the typical August slow down, allowing both buyers and sellers time to make their moves.
The pandemic has shown that our homes, more than ever, are valuable to our sense of place and sanity—they're our sanctuaries. Knowing this, have you noticed any trends for what types of homes people want?
We can all attest that getting some fresh air is helpful during this time, so I firmly believe that buyers will be adding outdoor space to their list of must-haves! With the anticipation of another round of social distancing in the Fall, we may also see a push for home offices, where people can step away from their living spaces and separate “work” time from “home” time.
Which neighborhoods do you anticipate being hot in the coming months?
I expect to see a sharper focus on areas and neighborhoods with space, either second or third bedrooms or land and back yards. There’s been a recent push into Anacostia as developers are turning their focus there, and Northern Alexandria will continue to see rapid turnover and development as Amazon and Virginia Tech move in.
Bidding wars have become a big part of the real estate landscape around town. Do you anticipate this continuing after we get back to normal? And, if so, what's the best strategy for a homebuyer to use for this phenomenon—knowing everyone wants to get a great home without caving to the pressure of haste?
Absolutely. DC is nothing if not competitive, right? Finding out the seller’s motivation—other than price—is key to a winning strategy. Do they need time to find their new home? Is your situation flexible so that you can offer a rent-back? Perhaps they are looking for a quick settlement because they have to move for a job. If you’re able to play to the seller’s needs and protect yourself, you have the best shot at a winning offer.
Are there any other pieces of advice you’d give potential homebuyers in the DC area this spring and early summer?
Real estate in the DMV is pretty much always a good investment, if you’re making smart decisions. This is a stable area with a ton of development and a reliable rental market. Don’t be afraid of asking questions about buying or selling—oftentimes there’s a way to reach goals you haven’t considered!
Photography by: Portraits by Eli Turner | home photos courtesy of McEnearney Associates