Although it originally looked like the market was taking off

Virus Stops Sales Momentum

Real Estate brokers are by nature an overly-optimistic bunch, and we tend to read the numbers like a gypsy reads tea leaves — the future is always bright (for the right price!)

In this case, though, there were some signs that the real estate market was lifting from a decade-long morose. Not enough to start speculating, mind you, but enough to switch some of that stock market money over to the real estate sector.

Typical of our luck, we’d run smack into a pandemic.

“Sales of previously-owned U.S. homes sank 8.5 percent in March just as the coronavirus pandemic began to shut down large parts of the economy and throw the real estate market into disarray,” Jeffrey Bartash wrote for Dow Jones last week. “The decline is likely to be a lot sharper in April.”

The quarterly reports are in, and the novel coronavirus didn’t spare the rod on the East End. The Elliman Report, for example, noted, “noticeably stronger results in the first two-and-a-half months” of the year when compared to the same time frame a year earlier. In fact, “the number of sales rose sharply from the year ago quarter for the second straight time,” the report said, but in mid-March, “market awareness of coronavirus occurred.”

It’s not just the loss of jobs, the masks, or the New York City residents migrating East, either, wrote attorney Christopher Kelley, whose firm, Twomey, Latham, Shea, Kelley, Dubin & Quartararo, LLP has handled more than a few deals over the years.

“The new way of doing business in real estate has affected other aspects of the transaction,” Kelley said. “Although New York has allowed remote notarization of documents, the social distancing makes it more difficult to complete closings, home inspections, and title searches.”

Among the trends identified in the Elliman Report, a sudden and shocking drop in listing inventory, which fell sharply year-over-year by almost 30 percent, to 8337 units.

However, sales numbers were on the improve in the Hamptons for most of the quarter. The median sales price jumped 16 percent to $990,000, and the number of sales in the Hamptons, 343, represented a 15.5 percent increase from this time last year, which admittedly was not a banner year for the industry.

The North Fork market, as could be expected, suffered the same fate. For the first quarter, the median sales price rose 0.4 percent to $608,425; the average sales price jumped 10.1 percent, to $815,886; and number of sales increased 3 percent, to 114.

rmurphy@indyeastend.com