Pandemic Hits Local Housing Market: Listings Down and Taking Longer to Sell

“It’s certainly a setback,” one broker said. “Everything has stopped or slowed.”

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The coronavirus pandemic has claimed another victim: San Diego’s once red-hot housing market has at least temporarily hit the ice, said Andy Nelson, president of Willis Allen Real Estate.

“With the pandemic, everything has stopped or slowed, to the point where there is minimal activity,” said Nelson, a long-time local real estate broker.

Nelson said the housing slowdown is fueling anxiety in the local real estate community, where agents until recently enjoyed bigger and more frequent commissions, in a very active housing market.

Nelson said the upper end of the housing market -- where homes sell for $1 million or more -- has taken the hardest hit.

“That’s the market of choice,” Nelson explained. “It’s not (the price-range) in which buyers need a home out of necessity.”

Homes in the more “affordable” range of under $1 million are selling better, Nelson said, but taking longer to sell, compared to the pre-pandemic era. 

San Diego county’s pandemic “stay-at-home” orders have also radically changed the way people buy and sell their homes.

Nelson said 90 percent of his home showings are now done with “virtual,” on-line tours. When potential buyers do check out a listing in-person, they wear a mask, gloves and booties, and sign a coronavirus advisory form.

“When potential buyers go in, they not only socially distance, they are not to touch anything,” said Afton Miller, a veteran agent with Coldwell-Banker Realty.

Miller said San Diegans are still buying and selling, but agreed with Nelson that the once-booming real estate market has definitely slowed down in March and April.

“To me, it’s very different,” said Miller, who was selling homes here during the Great Recession of 2008.

Nelson said his colleagues are also concerned about how long this COVID-19 slowdown will last.

“Anxiety is a perfect word,” he said. “Our agents have been very busy for many, many years, and all of a sudden it comes to (an almost) complete stop. You can imagine how that feels.”

Nelson does predict that housing prices will hold steady because there are fewer homes for sale, which puts upward pressure on prices. Average sales price information for March should be available the week of April 20.

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