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How Has COVID Affected the Multifamily Market? The Answer: It Depends

One year-plus into the largest public health crisis in a century, New England Condominium spoke to real estate professionals across the geographic regions we cover to learn the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on their specific areas. What we found out is that the co-op, condo, and HOA market has taken several twists and turns over the past year—and a lot of that movement depends on where you live. In fact, even within the same region, the pandemic has had varying impacts in luxury sectors versus middle-market, as well as in urban centers versus more outlying areas. A number of tangential factors are playing into trends and forecasts as well, making for a patchwork of experience across the country.

The Bounces

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest dips in property value and activity were seen in the second and third quarters of 2020, when the nation was experiencing its second wave of infections and states were in various levels of lockdown to contain the outbreaks. Realtors across the country were unable to show properties in person for months in many cases, and transactions were further hampered by limits on travel, gatherings, and long backlogs in the courts. In many U.S. cities, the civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers last year also had a compounded impact on real estate in those markets—some of which is still felt today. Condos and co-ops struggled as dense urban living and shared spaces lost some of their appeal when less was known about COVID-19 contagion and vaccines were still a pipe dream.  

But all that is changing. In Boston, condominium sales are not only bouncing back—they’re breaking records. According to the Greater Boston Association of Realtors, this April, which saw a 60.3% increase in condo sales over last April, had a record-setting 1,220 units go into contract. Douglas Elliman Downtown Boston’s recent market report notes that Q1 2021 had the highest number of condominium sales in a first quarter since 2006. 

“The statistics are mind-boggling,” says Gene Hashkes, a realtor/broker at William Raveis in Newton, Massachusetts, “and I’ve been doing this for 25 years. With more people vaccinated, with us returning to work and back to life, you’re seeing a resurgence in the condo market.”

Additionally, thanks to historically low interest rates many first-time homebuyers may find that they’re now able to afford a city condo, while the numbers might not have worked a year or two ago. “This is an excellent opportunity to buy a condominium,” says Hashkes. “So, where you’ve seen [single-family] home prices appreciate over the last 12 months, condos have just been going up since the beginning of the year.”

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