Real estate is a local industry and, as a rule, varies widely from market to market. But when Covid detonated in March, even that constant was upturned: For two weeks or more, deals everywhere fell apart, closings were delayed, buyers didn’t shop and sellers wouldn’t let them in anyway.
We worked with the data team at Realtor.com to find out what happened next. ( News Corp , owner of The Wall Street Journal, also operates Realtor.com under license from the National Association of Realtors.) The first step was for Realtor.com to analyze closed sales of homes at $1 million and up to find the 10 top buyer’s and seller’s markets nationwide. This process means that there is about a four-month lag between the home sales data and this guide, because it can take months for all of the counties to register the deeds in the public record.
Normally, that lag isn’t a big obstacle to understanding current conditions: Market dynamics tend to turn like slow-moving ocean liners. But this year was anything but normal. In some of our markets, the patterns observed in the Realtor.com data changed so dramatically throughout the summer that agents were reporting the exact opposite conditions once they were interviewed in the fall.
To find out what is happening on the ground now, we interviewed over 50 agents and buyers in these markets. We also tapped Zillow for a list of the metro regions attracting the greatest number of luxury home searches by people who live in another region to give us a sense of where buyers are likeliest to flock next.
The result is The Wall Street Journal’s second annual Buyers Guide, a data-driven report on market conditions rich with advice from insiders on how to negotiate during this strange time.