The pandemic is changing Upper Delaware real estate

By ELIZABETH LEPRO
Posted 10/7/20

REGION — Have you talked to a real estate agent lately? 

Maybe seen one from afar—a human-shaped blur in a flurry of paperwork and emptied coffee mugs, trailed by the ever-present …

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The pandemic is changing Upper Delaware real estate

Posted

REGION — Have you talked to a real estate agent lately? 

Maybe seen one from afar—a human-shaped blur in a flurry of paperwork and emptied coffee mugs, trailed by the ever-present sound of a cell phone dinging with offer after offer on Upper Delaware properties listed and snatched up in a flash? 

As the pandemic began to grip major cities in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, many city dwellers who were able started looking for rural safe havens. As a result, the real estate market in Wayne, Sullivan, Delaware and Orange counties is so hot, local realtors are saying it’s exceeding any they’ve seen—comparable, if not more intense, than the post-9/11 real estate boom, when urban flight also created a weighty seller’s market.

“It’s nonstop. Every agent that I know is working seven days a week,” said Lynne Freda, of Matthew J. Freda Real Estate. “There have been bidding wars like you can’t believe.”

According to the Wayne/Pike multi-listing real estate service—what realtors use to track all real estate sales across those counties as well as the fringes of surrounding counties such as Susquehanna, PA; Orange and Delaware, NY—there was a 60 percent increase in buyers from July 1 to September 15, compared to the same timeframe in 2019. More than 1,300 homes sold in that timeframe. 

A jump that high that quickly is historic, said Tim Meagher of REMAX Wayne, which has offices in Honesdale, Lake Ariel and Tyler Hill, PA. 

It’s likely that were it not for limited inventory, that number would be even higher. There’s been a 50 percent decrease in the amount of housing inventory available to potential buyers. There just aren’t enough houses for sale to meet the demand. 

This uneven supply and demand has pushed the average sale price on a listing up 14 percent.

 “A house in pre-COVID-19 market [more than] $500,000 would have sat there quite some time. Now, a house in the high end—$500,000 to $1 million—it is getting looked at right away and within a week, in many cases it’s going into a multiple-offer situation,” said Freda. 

Buyers aren’t thinking twice about dropping savings on a country home. Fear of a proximity-spread virus, the sudden irrelevance of being near a physical office and the uncertain economic future for major urban hubs has shifted their perspective. Many newcomers to the area, realtors say, are in their late 20s to early 40s, coming from New York City and Philadelphia, looking to buy second homes or main homes. They want lakefront properties, spacious acreage and room to breathe (literally). 

 “Some of the buyers that we’re dealing with, it’s very emotional for them to get their children out of the city where they can come and play outside and get fresh air and have a garden; go hiking on the Boy Scout trails,” said Dawn Curreri, of Eagle Valley Realty, which sells properties on both sides of the river. “Being stuck in an 800-square-foot or less apartment with two adults and a couple of kids... it would be hard for some of us to imagine. A lot of things in the city have changed.” 

The same was true post 9/11, when many families fled the city for fear of another attack. But for every boom, there’s always the looming threat of a bust. 

In the early 2000s, the real estate bubble infamously imploded, causing an economic recession that financially destroyed large swaths of the population for years to come.

“We found in the beginning of this market as things started going up and people were just buying, the appraisals were not keeping up with the sales, so we were coming up with lower prices,” said Freda, adding that she’s not concerned about the future, just “aware.” 

“The people with the cash said, 'Listen, I’m afraid that we’re in this crazy artificially inflated bubble, what’s going to happen in five years when I’m going to sell?’ They’re absolutely right. We don’t know. If we all knew that, we’d all be rich.”

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