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Home shopping network with a twist | Real estate market adapts

Editor’s note: A version of this story was published in the July issue of the Wenatchee Valley Business World.

NCW — While Pacific Appraisal Associate’s Real Estate Snapshot report — released mid-June — revealed that the number of year-over-year home sales were down 33% across the Wenatchee Valley in May, that wasn’t necessarily representative of every real estate agency in the region.

Some have actually seen an increase in business compared to last year’s numbers.

With a sizable increase in overall web-traffic, Nick McLean of the Nick McLean Real Estate Group said their sales are up 50% year-over-year (end of May totals) and they’ve been able to double their clientele — compared to the first two weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have seen a dramatic increase in web traffic compared to the massive drop off (in March),” McLean said. “When mortgage and interest rates went down, people started making their buying decisions online; touring homes online or on their apps. So, the old school methods of selling a home are not as effective anymore”

Geordie Romer of Icicle Creek Homes and Windermere Real Estate in Leavenworth also has seen an increase in buyers over the past two months. In fact, year-over-year home sales in Leavenworth, which has its own Snapshot report, released quarterly, was up 23% in the first quarter of 2020 with 37 closed sales compared to 30 in 2019. And for Romer at least, that trend has continued in May and June.

“June may be one of the best months of our whole career, which is not what we expected,” said Romer, who’s wife Allyson is the only other agent at Icicle Creek. “(The market) is the busiest I have seen it in the last 15 years. Just to give you an idea, last year in June there were 11 single-family homes closed in Leavenworth. Between just me and my wife, we have seven scheduled to close this June.”

For Leavenworth it’s as simple as supply and demand — a scarce amount of homes in the Leavenworth community but the demand from Seattle buyers looking to purchase a second home is tremendous.

“It started out with a lot of uncertainty but we’ve been through the recession and had some super slow years so we felt prepared for something similar,” Romer said. “We were not prepared to be as busy (though) especially in May. I think we took off only two days the whole month. We had been preparing for some cost-cutting measures but I think we wish instead that we hired some more staff.”

Second-home buyers are typically very patient when selecting what they believe is the right home, he said, but with most everyone working from home the past few months, it’s altered their buying strategy.

“There is a big group of people who want to get in ASAP,” Romer said. “They’ve been working from home, or home-schooling for several months, and realize the summer will seem long since (the pandemic) will likely go into the fall. They want to at least have a second-option and make decisions quickly so they can move in quickly.”

Before COVID-19, McLean thought the valley was experiencing the best quarter it had seen in more than a decade with the number of homes in escrow.

According to Pacific Appraisal’s Real Estate Snapshot, January home sales were up 62% in the Wenatchee market year-over-year, 2% in February and 3% in March before starting to decline in April.

Median home prices dipped slightly in May compared to the recent 90-day median of $355,000, but compared to last year’s numbers they are still on an upward trend. Median prices rose 2% in April year-over-year (from $339,900 to $345,000) and another 3% in May ($338,500 to $349,900).

“If you look at the last five recessions in three of them, home prices actually went up,” McLean said. “The last one in 2008 was caused by the housing market, but taking that one out of the equation, prices have gone up in the past and are going up in this recession. If there was a crash, it was with inventory; every seller was fearful prices would go down and people just worked on projects and stayed in their house. But for those who maintained their jobs, received stimulus money and are first-time homebuyers, they’ve been the biggest (chunk) of the market for homes $350,000-$400,000 and below.”

McLean said the market for houses on the higher end — $550,000 and above — has been slowing down a little, but he anticipates the market to pick back up over the summer months.

“Because people are moving over here from other areas (around the state) so we’ll see that increase for sure,” McLean said.

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