NEW JERSEY. May 23, 2020. (Kevin Stankiewicz, CNBC) — The CEO of real estate brokerage Compass told CNBC on Wednesday that more people have been looking for homes with pools during the coronavirus pandemic. Robert Reffkin, appearing on “Squawk Alley,” said searches on Compass’ website for homes with pools were up threefold, while online inquiries for homes with outdoor spaces were up two times. Searches for single-family homes have risen 40% while those for condominiums and co-ops had decreased, he added.
“I think this is going to be a continuous shift until there’s a vaccine,” contended Reffkin, who also is a founder of Compass. Overall, he said minimum square space requirement in searches is up around 10% from pre-pandemic levels. Interest has also shifted geographically, with more people looking at less-dense areas. Reffkin’s comments Wednesday came after new weekly data from the Mortgage Bankers Association showed an increase in housing activity, which had been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Weekly mortgage applications to buy a home jumped 6% last week from the previous week and purchase volume was just 1.5% lower than a year ago. The purchase volume reflects a dramatic recovery from just six weeks ago, when it was down 35% annually. Compass saw a bottoming in activity about two to three weeks ago across all of its 135 markets, Reffkin said. “We have seen in-contract listing activity go up back to pre-Covid levels in over 90% of our markets.”
Interested buyers have actually been motivated by stay-at-home orders that were meant to slow the spread of Covid-19, Reffkin said, while noting that low interest rates are also a contributing factor. At this point, Reffkin said Compass is seeing more activity from buyers on its website than there are new listings, which could cause prices to rise in certain markets.
“They’re evaluating, do they have enough space inside, outside? Do they have enough light? Do they have the right home office?” Reffkin said. “If the answers to those questions are no, they call their agent.”