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B-N Housing Market Hits Records In 2020, Despite Pandemic

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
File: An "I'm Taken" placard rests on a real estate for sale sign outside a home, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in Manchester, N.H.

The COVID-19 pandemic is devastating many industries, but the real estate market is thriving in the Bloomington-Normal area.

Mid-Illinois Realtors Association President Brandon Shaffer said home sales were up more than 21% in 2020 compared with the previous year. Sales of new construction also set records, he said--up 24.5%.

That boom is not expected to slow any time soon, Shaffer said.

Credit Courtesy Mid-Illinois Realtors Association
Brandon Shaffer is president of the Mid-Illinois Realtors Association.

“This is not just (in) Bloomington-Normal, this is coast to coast,” he said. “Interest rates really drove this. Buyers are looking for their agents, and the agents are looking for their houses. As soon as one comes on the market, the buyers are all over it.”

Shaffer said that’s even true for rural communities, as people look at to move out of metropolitan areas amid the pandemic.

The downside to this trend is there are limited options on the market. Shaffer said single-family home inventory is about half what it would normally be--putting the advantage squarely in the sellers’ hands.

“What we're hoping we will see is more sellers are more comfortable listing their home and that we've got a little more inventory to pick from,” Shaffer said. “That's where those new constructions are really going to kick in. A new construction doesn't have someone in it that needs to move somewhere. That seems to be the biggest fear: ‘If I sell my home, my agent is going to sell it so fast. Where do I now go?’”

Shaffer said bidding will be competitive. Buyers should enter the process with financing already sorted out or they'll lose out on a property, he said.

“Done is the day of checking out five to 10 houses and then kind of getting the ball rolling,” he said. “That house goes on the market and many times we're seeing it with multiple offers. So if you're not ready to go as the buyer, you're very well going to get beat out by another buyer who has all their cards in line.”

Market analysts predict home prices and sales could hold steady for the next two to three years, said Shaffer, adding Realtors expect some aspects to shift next year, as more Americans receive their COVID vaccine and things return to relative normal.

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Dana Vollmer is a reporter with WGLT. Dana previously covered the state Capitol for NPR Illinois and Peoria for WCBU.