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On The Move

How COVID is influencing real estate

By Morgan Baker

Almost 9 million Americans moved in 2020 between March and October, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), spurred on by the Pandemic. That number includes college students who moved home when the Pandemic hit in March. It also includes families who moved from cities to suburbs and older residents who thought this was a good time to get off the procrastination couch and downsize or get that retirement home in the country.

Twenty-eight percent of those who moved did so because of Covid or knew someone who did, according to a study from the Pew Research Center.

Real estate agents say, 2021 looks busy as well. People are still buying and selling at a rapid pace as a result of the pandemic.

“It’s bonkers,” says Leslie Belkner of Cambridge MA. “The real estate market is completely insane. Rates are so low and people don’t need to live near where they work anymore so the suburbs and secondary home markets are on fire.”

Nadia Evangelou, Senior Economist and Director of Forecasting of NAR agrees. “This is a great time for boomers to buy their retirement home even if they’re not thinking of retiring for a few years.”

“For every ten buyers, there is one home,” says Belkner, who has never seen anything like this. “On the listing side, agents are being wined and dined and stalked because buyer agents are willing to do anything to get their buyers offers to stand out and get accepted. I feel so bad for my buyers. And this is all driving prices up and up every day. Anyway, these are conditions never before seen in real estate,” says Belkner.

“There is no inventory,” says Stacy Osur, a realtor with Coldwell Banker in Lincoln MA. “It is a seller’s market.” She says it’s hard to put your house on the market though when you don’t know where you can find the next place to live.

“They want to walk, hike, have a garden. They see the world differently. They want room for their kids to play.”

“It’s fascinating,” says Osur about the change in what people are looking for as Covid has changed our lives. “They want to walk, hike, have a garden. They see the world differently. They want room for their kids to play. There is a flood of one-bedroom apartments in Boston.”

According to Osur, older buyers are moving out to places like the Cape, the islands, or the Berkshires. They want to live in those places full time, and it’s healthy for the communities to have them. Osur and her husband are among those considering leaving Lincoln where they raised their two daughters for a different venue.

“At retirement age, you have the freedom to work from home. Why not move to the Cape or the Berkshires?” she asks.

Will Flender, of the Law Offices of Fred V Peet, P.C. in Burlington VT, says interest rates are below 3 percent driving the market. Their firm has done a remarkable number of refinances this year, but he says more out-of-staters are moving to VT with cash offers.

Not only are interest rates huge motivators, says Evangelou of NAR, but older buyers have the benefit of lots of equity in their current homes that they can use for their retirement purchase, whether that’s a downsize, a second home, or a move to a new state or locale.

“There was also a narrative of buyers finally making their dream of having a home on the island come true now because the pandemic was a wake-up call that life is short and you never know what might happen next.”

According to the “Tea Lane Associates Martha’s Vineyard 2020 Market Review”, “Many fled urban and suburban environments for the space and safety of a rural setting. Others discovered that they could work remotely from anywhere so decided that they would make Martha’s Vineyard a more permanent part of their lives. There was also a narrative of buyers finally making their dream of having a home on the island come true now because the pandemic was a wake-up call that life is short and you never know what might happen next! All of this energy and activity resulted in a soaring real estate market on the Vineyard in 2020, as well as other rural vacation destinations around the country.”

Those preparing to move, however, should be forewarned, moving, even if you’re excited and looking forward to the change, can be difficult. It is one of the most stressful events in a person’s life, next to death, divorce and financial ruin.

Melody Warnick, author of This is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You are, says, it’s important to put down roots when you move, even if it feels like you’re on vacation. This is going to be your new home.

“For starters,” she says, “rebuild the routines of your life. Line up your new doctors, join a gym, try all the restaurants so you know which ones are your favorite, find a new book club, go for a hike. Whatever brought you joy in your old community can be a part of what tethers you to the new one.”

Act like a local and become part of the community, she says. Find a volunteering gig, show up to community meetings (even if they’re on Zoom right now), join a city board, shop at locally owned businesses, and donate to local causes you care about.

What has helped move you to a new locale – the ability to work remotely – can however also be isolating, says Warnick. But don’t give up. Making those connections may just take a little bit longer.

About the Writer

Morgan Baker is the managing editor of The Bucket. After a year in Hawaii, she is back in Cambridge, where her new adventure is adding a puppy to her family. She teaches writing at Emerson College. Her work can be found in The Boston Globe, The Boston Globe Magazine and The Brevity Blog, among other publications. She can be reached at

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