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Local real estate immune to pandemic

Jobs, low percentage of virus believed to help market says realtors

Even though many of us are still self-quarantining because of COVID-19, the demand for homes in the Morgantown area has been surprisingly robust in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.

The reason? The answer itself is twofold, a group of realtors from Howard Hanna Real Estate Services’ Cheat Lake office explained during a recent Zoom meeting with The Dominion Post.

 Out-of-state buyers now make up a good portion of the Morgantown area market and are moving to West Virginia for a quieter life, the realtors said. The state’s low percentage of COVID-19 cases, compared to hot spots like Arizona, Florida and New York, has helped facilitate interest in the area, but the out-of-state buyers are coming more for quality of life or because of jobs at large employers such as West Virginia University, WVU Health System and Mon Health. 

“We’ve been fortunate,” said Barbara Alexander, the broker in Hanna’s Cheat Lake office.

Shelia Rosier, a Hanna sales agent, for example, said she is working with a couple who moved to Florida and is now returning to the area.

“They’re moving back for safety and security,” Rosier said. “Plus, we have a handful of hospitals.”

“They also think about the crime rate,” added Victoria Shuman, another Hanna agent.

“We are a transient area,” she added.

COVID and open houses

COVID-19 safety and prevention measures — like fewer open houses — have not been a factor in the listing and sale of homes because more buyers are relying on video tours than ever before to decide on whether to buy, they said. In fact in recent months, online video tours of Hanna’s local listings have climbed by 50% at its local office.

A potential customer, who has accepted a job with one of the health systems for example, can take tours of 3-D local listings from the comfort of his home, a feature added by Hanna earlier this year. The tour allows the buyer to see essentially the same details he would see if personally visiting the home. He is also able to ask agents questions as they walk through the house “together.” 

Virtual home tours are likely here to stay, too, according to a recent survey by LendingTree, an online lending marketplace. The survey found three in 10 prospective buyers would purchase a home without taking an in-person tour. The most-likely buyers to make this move are Millennials at 42%, followed by Gen Xers at 31% and Baby Boomers at 10%, the survey said. 

People also have more money for a down payment because they have been forced to stay at home, the survey said.

Getting to know the local market

The average price of a single-family home in the Morgantown area is approximately $280,000, a price point that may seem high to buyers not familiar with the market. Realtors have said sellers are able to command these prices because of salaries paid at the university, the health systems and large employers such as Mylan NV’s Morgantown operation.

There is also the matter of getting used to the hilly topography, said Caitlyn Alexander, another Hanna agent, who is originally from California. 

“I found it hard to get used to the fact there are no sidewalks here,” she said. “Also, there are little things like no nearby dry cleaners.”

“They are also shocked by the lack of zoning and the narrow roads,” said Shuman, adding newcomers are also surprised by the number of $1 million-plus homes, too. Shuman had the listing on the Cheat Lake home of former WVU football coach Dana Holgersen. The 7,733-square-foot home sold for $2.1 million in May after being on the market for more than a year. It was initially listed at $2.95 million.

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