There is no question that 2020 was an unprecedented, bewildering, difficult year. As one nine-year old boy put it, 2020 was “like looking both ways before crossing the street and then getting hit by a submarine” because it was so crazy. A global pandemic, severe economic recession, virtual schools, social distancing…
We are all ready to put 2020 behind us.
There are ways in which we were very lucky this year. Recognizing the financial and personal stress millions of individuals and families hit by COVID-19 or job loss have experienced, I also wanted to give thanks for some of the ways in which I have felt lucky in 2020. Maybe these are some of the same things you are grateful for.
My husband and I have been fortunate to keep working during the recession. Our family has stayed healthy throughout the pandemic. We are blessed to have been quarantining since Day 1 with our awesome neighbors in our own COVID pod. My son is doing virtual high school with reliable, high-speed internet access. My five-year old was able to stay in her outdoor-based pre-school, with us opting out of virtual kindergarten. Our bills are paid. We have been able to help out folks in our community.
Grateful. Blessed. Lucky.
The housing market has also been a bright spot in 2020 and there is a whole set of other reasons to reflect on our luck. We are expecting home sales activity in 2020 to outpace last year’s totals, but the housing market could have gone very differently over the past nine months had it not been for some fortuitous factors.
The housing market got lucky in terms of demographics. Strong demand for housing, particularly homeownership, is being driven by the growing number of Millennials who are reaching their early- to mid-thirties, settling down, having children, and buying their first home. That demographic cohort has fueled strong demand that only stalled—and did not disappear—with the onset of the pandemic and the stay-at-home directives this past spring.
Despite some swings earlier this year, the mortgage market performed well during the pandemic and credit did not seize up the way it could have. While some lenders tightened lending requirements at some point over the past year, overall, relatively few borrowers have been shut out of the mortgage market as a result of stricter underwriting.
The fact that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac remained government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) and were not privatized is another way in which we were lucky in 2020. The mortgage market would not have performed as well this year if shareholders’ profits had to be put before what was best for the overall health of the housing market.
Real Estate as an Essential Business
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, state governments were forced to make difficult decisions about if and how to shut down businesses. Deciding which businesses were “essential” and which were not could make or break an industry.
Virginia REALTORS® partnered with the state leadership in the early days of the pandemic to create professional best practices that allowed real estate to continue in Virginia as an essential business. We were fortunate that Virginia’s elected officials did not restrict the real estate industry when some other states were. As a result, the housing market here was able to bounce back very quickly this summer and remained strong throughout the fall.
The ability of Virginia REALTOR® members to pivot and adopt innovative virtual strategies and social distancing techniques was also critical to the rebound of our housing market. As the saying goes, luck favors the prepared.
While there is still a lot of uncertainty, positive news about the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine and progress on a new round of federal stimulus is a good sign that we are heading in the right direction and that there is reason for optimism in 2021.