Riots, COVID-19 mean even more people want to move to BI

Inventory is very low so bidding wars are commonplace

You might think with the COVID-19 scare people would be hunkering down in their homes and staying put.

You’d be wrong.

Home sales on Bainbridge Island have been strong, even through August, when they usually start to slow a bit.

Sonja Jones of Sotheby’s said the riots in Seattle have something to do with it.

“There’s a push to get out of the city and into the suburbs,” she said. “People want more rural, where it’s a little bit safer.”

The coronavirus itself also is playing a part.

“The island is low for COVID-19. It’s on your mind,” she said of the small number of cases here.

There also a number of buyers in the Edmonds area. “People don’t feel secure there anymore,” Jones said.

Jones, who has six years experience, said one problem for real estate sales here are there just aren’t enough properties for sale.

“People want to move here, but people don’t want to leave,” she said, adding there’s very little new construction of homes, too.

So sellers have been able to get good prices, with $1 million a popular price range.

“Red hot are the super high end” homes, she said. “They’re off the market within days.

“It’s a tight market, lots of bidding wars.”

Jones said COVID-19 hasn’t affected the way most homes are sold, as it’s done mostly online nowadays anyway.

“That’s how people shop,” she said, adding visual tours on Skype or Zoom are the norm. Potential buyers all over the country need to see “if it’s worth it to get on a plane.”

One big difference since the coronavirus hit is there are no Open Houses going on. They are usually very popular, especially in summer. But real estate agencies are offering virtual Open Houses, and of course extensive photos of all houses are available online 24 hours a day.

Jones said she’s been so busy she hasn’t been able to take time off.

“No vacation, but there’s no where to go and no time anyway,” she said.

Susan Grosten of Windermere Realty said most of her clients, many from already on the island, are either upsizing or downsizing.

“Adult kids are moving back home so they need extra space,” or parents whose kids are gone who need less, she said.

Grosten, who’s sold houses here for 20 years, said Bainbridge has always been a popular location.

“We’ve got great schools and quality of life,” she said.

With the median price here around $1 million, most buyers want the home to be “move-in ready,” she said, “no sweat equity.”

Many people can afford the expensive homes because of the equity they have after selling their previous house.

Grosten the year got off to a hot start before COVID-19. Then it slowed way down.

“People don’t invest much when there’s unknowns,” she said.

When limited showings were allowed, people were still uneasy about looking at occupied homes, although vacant homes were popular, Grosten said.

Then, as cases went down, restrictions started to loosen up.

“People here do an amazing job of respecting the science,” she said.

Grosten added there are a number of reasons she thinks the market will remain hot.

First, because of the late start, there will be fall spillover.

Second, since school is by remote, families won’t have to be settled in before September.

Third, businesses have learned during COVID-19 that people don’t have to work in their cubicle thanks to technology. So people can live wherever they want.

Grosten said she joked with a friend that her job is not glamorous.

“It’s mice, mold and septic systems. Bainbridge Island is lovely, but it’s not perfect,” she said with a laugh.

Julie Meyers of Bainbridge Homes said she’s seeing lots of buyers coming out of the big cities like New York, San Francisco, and, as usual, Seattle – mostly in an effort to get away from COVID-19.

“Everybody wants a piece of land around them,” to distance themselves from others, she said, adding at least 50 percent of buyers are mentioning the coronavirus as a reason. “It’s pushing this sense of urgency with buyers.”

As a result, inventory is at a record low – 42 houses instead of the normal 125 in August.

“It’s crazy. Houses on the market get multiple offers. They’re waiving inspections. I’ve never seen anything like this,” in 5 years in the business, she said.

Meyers said people in more-expensive markets can sell their homes and put down a lot of cash to get into high-end homes on the island.

She said it’s a great time to sell a home here, as even overprice homes are being sold.

“We don’t known what’s going to come next year,” she said.

She does know this is the “busiest August I’ve ever worked. We’re all peddling very fast.”

Chris Miller of Coldwell Banker Bain said many of his clients actually already are living on the island. He said they’ve been renting, but they wanted to buy “before they got priced out of the market.”

He also said clients are coming over from Seattle because they can work from home now because of COVID-19 so they no longer have to live close to work.

As for the coronavirus, Miller said it’s taken away from the personal connections real estate agents have with clients.

“A handshake is pretty much gone,” he said, adding they no longer can ride together when looking at houses either.

As for the homes themselves, Miller said many homeowners don’t want to deal with all the restrictions so they will just move out, so Realtors have to stage a home more often.

When homeowners stay, they often leave items at the front door like booties and sanitizer; they also ask buyers not to come in if they have a temperature or if they’ve been around someone with COVID-19.

The number of people who can be in a house at the same time during a showing is limited.

“We have to wipe everything down we touch so it’s sanitary,” Miller said.

He said bidding wars are common, and the number of days it takes to sell a home as dropped from 90 years ago to 20 this summer.

“We’ve been spoiled the last several years, but that’s an incredible number,” he said.

By the numbers

-Information provided by Chris Miller

*This year, 254 homes have been sold, compared with 253 last year. “COVID has not slowed the market down in any way,” Miller said.

*The average price is up 7%, the median price is up 2%.

*The average sale price is $1.33 million; the median price is $931,000.

*Since COVID restrictions started March 25, 122 homes were listed and sold.

*47 or 38%, sold above the original list pirice.

*45 or 37% sold under list price.

*30 or 25% sold at full price.

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