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Home sellers in Chicago are ‘hesitant’: New listings are down 19 percent since March

Normally, the spring season brings a flood of new homes for sale with inventory spiking 62 percent.

A corner with small brick apartments and the L tracks in the distance. Getty Images/EyeEm

After the stay-at-home order, a lot changed in the housing market. For those still house hunting, it’s primarily now an all online process. Open houses switched to virtual tours via FaceTime and Zoom. Many closings are done curbside without the celebratory moment at signing.

If you’re purchasing a home, usually spring is the one of the best times to start looking. Since sellers wait for this time all year, it’s when some of the best houses become available. On average the total number of homes that come on the market jump by 62 percent from March to early April.

The uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic has brought on a hesitancy among sellers in Chicago. New home listings are down 38 percent year-over-year and have dipped by 19 percent since March 1.

“It is clear that many would-be home sellers are adopting a wait-and-see approach as uncertainty continues to rule. Our understanding of U.S. economic conditions is changing weekly, if not daily, and early unemployment figures are striking, so it’s understandable that some are hesitant to put their home on the market,” said Skylar Olsen, senior principal economist at Zillow in a statement.

In Chicago, real estate agents are hoping the season’s busiest shopping time is pushed back into late summer. However, Olsen says it’s possible that homebuying won’t pick back up until winter.

It seems that the housing market in Chicago is on pause. While there isn’t the usual flood of new homes for sale, most of the homes that are for sale are staying on the market. Since March 1, the total inventory for sale has only falled 1.9 percent. In total, it’s down 11 percent from a year ago.

In March, the number of active listings (this doesn’t include those privately listed or that were temporarily taken off the market) peaked at 68,905 homes in mid-March, according to MRED. Then after the stay-at-home order inventory started decreasing with it at 63,591 homes in mid-April.

Many real estate agents were expecting a banner year. The first week of March saw 8,743 new listings and 4,795 homes went under contract, according to data by MRED. After the stay-at-home order from Gov. Pritzker went into effect on March 20, the following week saw a drop in these numbers. There were only 4,288 new listings and 3,095 homes that went under contract in the last week of March.

What spiked was the number of listings that went temp—this is when listings temporarily go off the market. There were only about 2,500 listings that temporarily delisted, but now that number is increasing each week. After the stay-at-home order, temp listings jumped to 4,933 the last week in March and have been increasing every week since.

While the number of open houses have been cut in half since the stay-at-home order, there are still people looking at vacant properties in person. Plus, real estate agents have seen their online traffic jump, they think homebuyers are doing a lot more house hunting online before making a serious inquiry.

“Activity continues from those who need to buy or sell for a job move or another major life event. What’s not likely is that the bulk of potential home sellers and buyers simply throw up their hands and pull back from the market entirely,” Olsen said in a statement.