By Staci Donegan
The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, which is affecting countries around the globe, has also impacted Savannah’s housing market, as buyers and sellers adjust to the new reality of social distancing, sheltering in place and economic instability.
Mayor Van Johnson issued a shelter-in-place directive for the City of Savannah, effective as of 11:59 p.m. tonight (March 24). Area residents are still working to understand the impact of the mandate on local businesses.
Prior to the shelter-in-place directive, real estate listings were still being shown and properties were still being bought and sold. The overall showing volume decreased in Savannah over the past two weeks, but we still saw activity in the market. With the new shelter-in-place order issued, it will be more difficult to conduct business in Savannah.
Markets in Flux
Right now, all real estate markets across the United States are in flux. Some markets still have a significant number of transactions occurring, while other markets are seeing transactions fall apart.
According to a National Association of Realtors survey dated March 16-17, 48 percent of real estate agents indicated that buyer interest has decreased due to the coronavirus outbreak and 16 percent of agents indicated that sellers have removed homes from the market due to COVID-19. I wonder what those survey results would look like today or even a week from now. Clearly we are in uncharted territory.
There is no way to predict what is going to happen in the future, since we’ve never experienced a pandemic on this scale that’s caused the entire country to shut down and our city to shelter in place. We have no reference point to look at what occurred the last time this happened, like we might with a hurricane or a natural disaster.
Disrupting Sales Patterns
The spring is typically an active home buying season, as families prepare to move during the summer break when school is out of session. Spring is also a time when out-of-town buyers like to schedule time to come to Savannah to check out the real estate market and to see what’s available. However, the coronavirus is altering the “normal” real estate cycle and disrupting traditional sales patterns.
It is important to note that Savannah is not a seasonal real estate market, like many other tourism-focused cities. People buy and sell property in Savannah throughout the year, which diminishes the impact of short-term, coronavirus-related market changes. Hopefully, later in the year, we will see an increase in sales volume that will offset the changes that are happening now.
In 2019, the housing market in Chatham County was fueled by the overall strength of the regional and national economy. Just a few weeks ago, the U.S. economy was experiencing low unemployment rates, higher wages and a robust stock market. Now, the coronavirus is putting the brakes on a hot real estate market nationwide and locally. With a shelter-in-place order issued, Savannah’s real estate market is far from “business as usual.”
Given the changes and precautions inspired by the coronavirus, the future of Savannah’s real estate market is unclear at this time. Ultimately, the long-term impact of COVID-19 still remains to be seen.