April is usually one of the busiest months for the housing market, as the spring home-buying season is well underway. Not this year. The novel coronavirus has dealt the real estate market a series of blows, starting with sidelining both buyers and sellers and worsening the already severe housing shortage.
The number of homes that went on the market plummeted in April compared with the previous year. New listings were down 44.1% nationally, according to realtor.com®’s Monthly Housing Trends Report. That affected the overall number of homes for sale, which was down by about 189,000 listings, representing about a 15.3% drop in housing inventory in April compared with the prior year.
“The good momentum we saw at the start of the year has helped to somewhat insulate the housing market from the coronavirus’ negative impact on buyer and seller confidence,” realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale said in a statement. “Although we saw sharp drops in new listings, an increase in the time it takes to sell a home, and a flattening of prices in April, May is likely to see some of these metrics worsen.”
In the Northeast, which has been hammered by COVID-19, new listings were down the most, at 59.4%. The region includes New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and some of the other states that have been hardest-hit by the pandemic.
New listings were down 49.5% in the Midwest, 44.1% in the West, and 31.4% in the South.
Overall, new listings fell the most in the Milwaukee metro area, by 80%. It was followed by Detroit, down 75.3%, and Pittsburgh, declining 74.8%. The analysis looked only at the 50 largest metropolitan areas. (Another realtor.com story looking at the metros that saw the greatest decline in new listings evaluated the 100 largest metros.)
In the New York City metro area, the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus crisis, new listings were down 67.9%.
“Just how significantly the housing market is impacted by the pandemic will depend on how effective the country is at containing the virus and how the economy responds,” Hale said. “If all goes well, we could see buyers returning to the market aggressively this summer to make up for the spring they lost.”
The national median home price was $320,000 in April, unchanged from March. If not for COVID-19 and the ensuing financial mess and mass layoffs, prices likely would have been higher. They were up just 0.6% year over year—compared with a 3.8% increase in March.
The largest price declines were in the Dallas metro area, where prices fell 5.7% annually in April. They were down 4.5% in the Seattle metro area and 4.4% in the Chicago area.
Prices were up the most in Pittsburgh, by 14.4%; Memphis, TN, up 12.2%; and Philadelphia, up 9.1%.
Homes sold a bit more slowly than last year. The number of days on the market it took a home to sell increased by four, to a median 62 days in April.
The Buffalo, NY, metro area saw the biggest increase in the number of days on the market, as they went up 24 days in April compared with a year earlier. They rose 22 days in the Detroit metro and 15 days in the Pittsburgh area.