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Residential market rebounds as buyers, sellers adjust to restrictions

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The Delaware residential real estate market seems to be rebounding as the state slowly reopens amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A year-over-year comparison of categories tracked by listing service Bright MLS indicates that the market has a higher number of new listings, new purchase contracts, new closed listings, and weekly showing activity for the week ending June 29 than it did a year ago.

Maryland-based Bright MLS has 95,000 subscribers in six states and Washington, D.C., including 4,200 in Delaware.

“We are seeing a dramatic increase in showings and sales in the northern part of the state,” said Mike Milligan, owner of Century 21 Emerald in Wilmington and Millsboro. “With interest rates remaining low, buyers are taking advantage and buying homes within hours on the market not days.”

Milligan said that it is common right now for a listing active on a Monday to have multiple offers as of Tuesday, and the remaining appointments cancelled as a result.

“One of our key phrases through this has been, ‘If you want to sleep on it, you won’t sleep in it,’” he said. “This is a perfect storm market where sellers are seeing higher sale prices and buyers can afford more because of the mortgage interest rate market.”

For example, Bright MLS reported that Delaware saw 377 new listings for the week ending June 29 versus 300 a year earlier. In the two weeks ending June 22 and June 29, it reported 538 and 504 new purchase contracts in the state, compared with 445 and 276 a year ago. Those new purchase contract figures were trending well below 2019 numbers until mid-May, when they passed last year’s results.

Mia Burch President of Long & Foster Greenville | PHOTO C/O LONG & FOSTER

Part of that dramatic change could be due to the fact that many sellers delayed putting their homes up for sale or took them off the market in late March and have now revisited the process.

More Delaware residents believe their area is affordable than elsewhere in our region (72%) and more want to remain in the area than others (81%), according to a WSFS Mortgage Regional Study of 1,007 tri-state residents ranging in age from 18 to 55. However, Delaware residents are most concerned about getting the funds together for a down payment, and 79% were somewhat anxious about finding the right financing to buy home. The study was conducted in two waves beginning in February 2020 with a follow-up in late May.

Milligan said buyers, sellers, and agents are working together to deal with COVID-19 restrictions.

“Sellers are leaving lights on and doors cracked to limit touchpoints throughout their home, often leaving hand sanitizer and posting instructions to remove shoes or wear paper booties. Buyers agents are providing masks, gloves and sanitizer to their clients in order to feel safe when visiting a home,” he explained. “Awareness is at an all-time high with a 24/7 news cycle on the topic, and we trust our agents have the tools, education and compassion to work in this environment understanding that many clients may have trepidations about the actual house visit itself. “

Mia Burch, president of the Long & Foster gold team in Greenville and 2020 president-elect of the Delaware Association of Realtors, said that those safety guidelines have eased concerns from both buyers and sellers about in-person walkthroughs.

“I hope the governor does not roll back and extend the order any more than he has,” Burch said, noting that traffic has increased since the start of Phase 2. “This [would] devastate the real estate industry and [create] further financial consequences” for the state.

Sandi Bisgood, Sussex County Association of Realtors President | PHOTO C/O SOTHEBY’S OCEAN ATLANTIC

Meanwhile, Sussex County Association of Realtors President Sandi Bisgood of Sotheby’s Ocean Atlantic in Millsboro and Rehoboth Beach said that the downstate real estate market has been brisk as well.

“Inventory is down, and homes that are priced right are selling – often with multiple offers, and in some cases to buyers who have not physically toured the property but have only seen it virtually,” she said, emphasizing that it’s definitely a sellers’ market right now. “There seems to be increasing demand for homes from current city-dwellers who are ready to relocate and, or, able to work from home – and where better to do that, than near the beach?”


By Peter Osborne

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