Brownstone facades & row houses at sunset in an iconic neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights in New York City
Coronavirus, Local Market Report

How COVID-19 Has Changed 2020 Market Predictions

In early February, highlighted six cities which we believed stood a strong chance of becoming top-tier markets. Then, the pandemic hit. So, how are four of the six markets faring? Let’s take a look.

In early February, highlighted six “Cinderella” cities which we believed stood a strong chance of becoming top-tier markets in the coming months. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. So, we decided to give four of our glass-slipper-spots another look to see how they have fared so far.

Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City sits on Missouri’s western edge, straddling its border with Kansas. It is the largest city in the state, both by population and area, and the 38th largest in the country. Kansas City was founded in the 1830s as a Missouri River port at the confluence of the Kansas River flowing from the west. More recently, the city has undergone extensive redevelopment, with over $6 billion in improvements to the downtown area on the Missouri side alone. In the decade between 2007 and 2017, the downtown population soared, from 4,00 residents to some 30,000. Indeed, it is the sixth fastest growing downtown in the country. Many old, unoccupied office structures have been turned into residential and office space, and new apartment buildings have reshaped the skyline.
Kansas City saw its median house price go up 7.1% over the 12-month period ending March 31 to $219,900. And in April, it grew again. Seven-and-a-half percent for existing houses and 2.8% for new construction, reports the Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors, which covers 10 counties in Missouri and nine in Kansas.
On the flip side, though, closed sales slipped 7.3% in the existing home sector – they were up 3% for new homes – and pending sales were down 19.3% and 24.9%, respectively. At the same time, the number of places for sale also fell, by 31.8% and 19.7%, again respectively. And the realty group said in its latest report that the economic damage wrought by the virus is “likely to constrain activity for the near term.”
kansas city missouri

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minnesota is the “Land of Ten Thousand Lakes,” and Minneapolis, the state’s most populous city, is known as the “City of Lakes”. It has 22 of them within its borders, plus 170 parks. But, Minneapolis is more than just water; it has a thriving theatre scene with more seats per capita than any other city in the country– except New York, New York. Its gleaming downtown high rises are connected by more than seven miles of glass-enclosed walkways that are lined with shops, restaurants and services. And who can forget the Mall of America which is nearby Bloomington.
The Minneapolis-area seems to be weathering COVID-19 quite well. Better than most, perhaps. In April, according to Minneapolis Area Realtors, pending sales were up 3%, and the median sales price was up 6.8%, from $268,000 last April to $285,000. Breaking that down, sales were up 2.4% in the existing home sector and 11.8% for new houses.
Houses seem to be selling well here. On average, houses are on the market for just 48 days, and sellers are receiving 98% of their asking price. They’re selling so well, in fact, that the number of houses for sale dropped 13.1% in April. That leaves only a 1.8 month’s supply at the current sales pace.

Syracuse, New York

One of five cities in the Empire State named among the top 100 places to live, and the state’s fifth most populous, Syracuse has stumbled a bit over the last few decades as industrial jobs have left the region. But it has become a beacon of higher education, research and health care. Indeed, University Hill is now its fastest growing neighborhood, fueled by expansions of nearby universities.
This central New York city has been hit hard by the pandemic, as has the rest of the state. New listings were down in April by 64.8% to just 479. Pending sales dropped even further, by 68.9% to only 309 while inventories shrank by 21%, leaving just a 2.6 months’ supply on hand.
There were 532 sales here in April compared to 627 in April 2019. Nevertheless, prices moved higher, with the median rising 9% to $145,000, and the median number of days on the market slipped to 55 days.

Brownstone facades & row houses at sunset in an iconic neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights in New York City

Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis is far more than the famous for the 500-mile race held annually over the Memorial Day Weekend. For example, the Indiana capital has the country’s 27th largest economic regional, and is home to three Fortune 500 companies like Anthem, Eli Lilly and Company, and Simon Property Group.
A planned city, Indianapolis was laid out by Alexander Ralston and Elias Pym Fordham and became incorporated in 1847. Today, the city and surrounding Marion County is home to nearly 900,000 people. As of a year ago, the city’s unemployment rate was a mere 2.8%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s somewhat surprising when you consider that the city, like many in the Midwest, has felt the sting of de-industrialization.
Depending on how you look at it, Indianapolis’ housing market was fairly strong in April. The median sales in Marion County was up 1.3% from March and 10.8% from last April – to a reasonable $177,250, according to the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors.
“The April market saw much less of an impact from Covid-19 than might have been expected,” said Shelley Specchio, MIBOR CEO. “Although the (median) price was almost flat compared to last month, where normally we would see solid gains in prices between March and April, the percentage of asking price was near an all-time high and median days on market remains at just 38, the same as last month.”
But sales were off 16.7% from the previous month and new listings were down 21.2%. Worse, pending sales fell 4.4%. At the end of April, only 1,459 houses in Marion County were actively listed, and it’s that lack of inventory that is moving prices higher.
“Here we are, in the middle of a pandemic, and housing inventory in Indianapolis is as tight as it ever has been,” said economist Elliot Eisenberg. “With inventory that tight, there is almost no way you can conceive of major price declines. Demand for houses would have to fall much, much more before you would see a meaningful decline in prices.”
Lew Sichelman
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Syndicated newspaper columnist, Lew Sichelman has been covering the housing market and all it entails for more than 50 years. He is an award-winning journalist who worked at two major Washington, D.C. newspapers and is a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

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