The market hasn’t fully recovered yet, but agents in luxury markets told Inman that deals are still happening and activity appears to be on the rise.

When the coronavirus pandemic first hit the U.S., the real estate market in Santa Clara County “went straight off a cliff.”

Janelle Boyenga

“We knew that it was going to slow things down,” Janelle Boyenga, who leads a team at Compass with her husband Eric Boyenga, told Inman. “We knew that people were going to wait on the sidelines.”

The Boyengas work in the Silicon Valley area, where vast wealth from the technology industry has for years fueled demand for very expensive housing. But the area’s tech companies were some of the first to send their workers home, and California has been aggressive about its economy-closing isolation mandates.

The result of that shutdown was that the hit to the real estate market was real, Boyenga said.

But more than two months later, something remarkable has happened as well: Boyenga and her team are seeing surging interest from consumers.

“We’ve been so busy,” she explained. “I think things really have been pretty good.”

Inman last checked in on individual U.S. luxury markets in late April. At the time, agents in a handful of counties with high concentrations of expensive listings were generally optimistic and didn’t expect to see a 2008-style crash. But they also generally (though not universally) described experiencing a slowdown that was ongoing on that time.

Boyenga’s experience, on the other hand, hints at the possibility that conditions are actively improving.

To better understand how widespread that improvement might be, Inman has compiled data on a handful of markets with numerous high-end listings, and reached out to agents working in those areas. And collectively, their experience appears to align with that of Boyenga’s in California. Which is to say, local markets haven’t fully recovered, but agents say they’re experiencing signs of recovery.

All local markets are unique, and Inman intentionally examined different areas for this report than the ones in our last luxury snapshot. But broadly speaking, here are the key takeaways:

  • Everyone who spoke to Inman described being busy, saying deals are closing and consumers are engaging with the market. Fear among consumers appears to be waning somewhat.
  • Agents uniformly said inventory is scarce. That has kept prices up, and in some cases agents described experiencing bidding wars and multiple offer situations.
  • Some of the agents who spoke to Inman described strong demand for properties in the middle-to-high end range. This was a marked contrast to agents in other luxury markets who spoke to Inman just under a month ago.
  • Data from April largely paints a picture of an ongoing downturn. However, many of the agents who described improving conditions said activity has surged more recently, in May, for which data is not broadly available yet.

Here’s what’s going on in five local luxury markets across the U.S.:

Santa Clara County, California

Confirmed cases as of May 20: 2,508

Deaths as of May 20: 139

Santa Clara County sits at the south end of California’s Bay Area and includes the heart of Silicon Valley. The north end of the valley includes Palo Alto, Mountain View, Menlo Park and other communities that are famous as the home of companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple and many others.

Menlo Park, California Credit: Jonathan Clark and Getty Images

As of 2019, nearly 2 million people lived in Santa Clara County. San Jose is the county seat, and with more than 1 million residents is both the largest city in the region as well as the 10th largest city in the U.S.

Santa Clara County’s median household income between 2014 and 2018 was $116,257, according to the U.S. Census.

The most expensive active listing in Santa Clara County right now is an estate asking nearly $54 million. The estate includes over 13 acres of land and the main house sprawls across more than 12,000 square feet.

Data from MLS Listings, the multiple listing service (MLS) in the region, shows that in April the median price for a single family home in Santa Clara County was $1,389,444. That’s up 5 percent compared to April 2019. However, the average price was $1,614,150, which was down 2 percent year-over-year.

The data also shows that the county had 566 closed single family sales in April, down 36 percent year-over-year, and 733 new listings, down 46 percent year-over-year. Inventory in April fell 31 percent compared to April 2019.

On the other hand, median days on market in April was just 8, an fairly incredible number that shows just how competitive the Silicon Valley market really is. That number also represents a drop of 33 percent compared to the same period last year.

Douglas County, Colorado

Confirmed cases as of May 20: 663

Deaths as of May 20: 43

Douglas County sits just south of Denver and north of nearby Colorado Springs — the state’s two largest cities. The median household income of the county between 2014 and 2018 was $115,314, according to the U.S. Census. That’s the highest for any county in Colorado.

Castle Rock, Colorado. Credit: Paul Souders and Getty Images

Nearly 300,000 people live in Douglas County, with roughly 65,000 clustered in Castle Rock, the county seat. Many people in the area work in technology and banking.

Properties currently for sale in Douglas County include a house that was originally built as a corporate retreat, a chateau-style “equestrian estate” and an award-winning home that was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Falling Water.

Data that REColorado, the area’s MLS, provided to Inman shows that in April Douglas County’s median closed price for a home was $513,000. That’s up 5 percent compared to April of last year.

The county saw 764 new listings in April, which represents a year-over-year drop of 28 percent.

The data further shows that there were 542 closed listings, down 18 percent, and 518 pending listings, down 37 percent.

REColorado has additionally published a metro-wide report showing that during the week of May 10 new listings were up by 2 percent compared to the prior week, but down by 15 percent year-over-year.

Though that report wasn’t specific to Douglas County, REColorado did say in an April report that the region had experienced a market pullback thanks to the “uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus.”

Morris County, New Jersey

Confirmed cases as of May 20: 6,155

Deaths as of May 20: 583

Morris County is part of the New York metro area and sits about 25 miles from Manhattan. Despite its proximity to America’s largest metropolis, however, the area’s homes have in many cases sprawling estates and lake-front views.

Lake Elmore in Morristown, New Jersey. Credit: Franz Marc Frei and Getting Images

Current listings in the area include a 13,000-square-foot stone house that was built in 1932, as well as numerous properties that sit on dozens of acres of land.

As of 2019, the population of Morris County was just under half a million people. Parsippany-Troy Hills Township is the largest municipality in the county, with about 53,000 people. Morristown is the county seat.

Multiple Fortune 500 companies have offices in Morris County, which has a generally diversified economy based on everything from oil to pharmaceuticals to technology. The county’s median household income between 2014 and 2018 was $111,316, according to the U.S. Census.

Data from realtor.com shows that the median listing price for a Morris County home in April was $559,050. That’s up about 4.6 percent year-over-year.

The county had 1,776 active listings in April, down nearly 30 percent compared to the same period in 2019, and saw 380 new listings, down more than 69 percent year-over-year.

Homes in Morris County spent a median 54.5 days on the market in April, up more than 43 percent year-over-year.

Howard County, Maryland

Confirmed cases as of May 20: 1,548

Deaths as of May 20: 45

Howard County is located in central Maryland, about 8 miles from downtown Baltimore and 20 miles from the core of Washington, D.C. The county had a population of about 325,000 people as of 2019. Elliot City is the county seat and among other things draws tourists thanks to its reputation for being haunted.

Howard County, Maryland. Credit: AppalachianViews and Getty Images

The county is consistently ranked as one of the most affluent regions in the U.S. and according to the U.S. Census the median income between 2014 and 2018 was $117,730.

Properties listed for sale in Howard County currently include a 16,000-square-foot mansion built in 1838 and an 8,000-square-foot manor house dating to 1789.

Data that multiple listing service Bright MLS provided to Inman shows that in April the county’s median sales price was $460,000. That represents an increase of 18 percent year-over-year.

Bright MLS’s April 2020 report also notes that the area “saw a price surge in several of its suburban cities.”

The county additionally had 353 closed sales in April, down 6.6 percent year-over-year, and 300 new pending sales, down nearly 44 percent year-over-year.

Moreover, 412 new listings hit the market in April, which was almost 45 percent fewer than went on the market one year ago.

Median days on market in the county was 7 in April, a number that suggests high demand and which is also half as long as homes spent on the market in April 2019.

Bright MLS’s April report indicates that the pandemic’s impacts on the housing market across the broader Baltimore metro region, which Howard County is a part of, have been mixed, with inventory low but prices rising.

“Potential new sellers opted to pause putting their homes on the market, creating the lowest April volume of new listings in the past ten years and added pressure to already constricted inventory levels,” the report states. “In an indication of things to come, new pending sales had their sharpest year-over-year drop in a decade.”

Williamson County, Tennessee

Confirmed cases as of May 20: 491

Deaths as of May 20: 10

Williamson County is part of the Nashville metropolitan area and as of 2018 was home to just over a quarter of a million people. Franklin, with a population of just over 80,000, is both the county seat and largest city.

Downtown Franklin, Tennessee. Credit: Dan Reynolds Photography and Getty Images

The county was originally formed in 1799.

The region’s economy includes significant contributions from the healthcare industry. Nissan and Mitsubishi also both have their U.S. headquarters in Franklin. According to the U.S. Census, the county’s median income was $109,026 between 2014 and 2018.

Listings in the county currently include a sprawling estate featuring a home built in the year 1800, as well as a house from 1835 that has since been upgraded to have features such as a pool and an indoor basketball court.

Realtor.com data shows that Williamson County’s median listing price was $685,433 in April, up nearly 8 percent year-over-year.

There were 1,048 active listings in the county last month, which was almost 23 percent fewer than last year at the same time. New listings fell more than 28 percent, to 496.

Listings in the county also sat on the market for a median of 37 days in April, which represents an increase of about 5.7 percent.

Email Jim Dalrymple II

Compass | coronavirus | luxury
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