Buyers Brave Snow Banks and Cold to Find a Home in Greater Boston
The Alaskan-style winter that has swallowed Greater Boston threatens to deep freeze spring home sales as well.
Droves of buyers are braving snowy streets and clambering up slippery steps to look at the relative handful of homes on the market right now, brokers say.
But sellers who have been gearing up, in some cases for months, to put their homes on the market in March, are now looking to April or even May, according to listing agents.
The one upside is that when the spring market finally takes off, it is expected to sizzle, with frenetic sales activity extending well into the summer – a time when the market typically takes a breather.
“It’s going to go crazy,” said Deborah Heffernan, broker and co-owner of Avenue 3 Real Estate in Arlington, of the projected warmer months. “I have had a number of people who have held back listing their homes because it is physically too challenging. They are dealing with ice dams and you can’t even see outside the property.”
Massachusetts sales dropped 2 percent in January after rising through the fall and holiday season, with a 10 percent jump in sales in December amid a chilly but snow-free month, according to The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman.
The onset of heavy snow and arctic cold was a key factor, and one that will likely result in another drop in sales for February when those numbers are released in late March.
Buyers have proved to be especially hardy this winter. The few open houses that haven’t been canceled due to epic storms of the last few months regularly have attracted crowds, brokers say.
Redfin’s Nancy McLaughin, listing specialist for the western suburbs, said she was stunned to see an overflow crowd show up at an open house she was putting on in Framingham on a recent snowy Sunday.
“We had 30 people in 90 minutes,” she recalled. “They were traipsing through the snow with the most determined looks on their faces.”
Some sellers are also showing similar grit amid an unrelenting winter that has already broken local records for snowfall.
Hans Brings, an agent at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, said he is working with sellers in Waltham who were so determined to push forward with their open house that they decided to take municipal snow clearance into their own hands.
The couple, after digging out their driveway, went to work shoveling out the entire street, trying to widen it enough for buyers to drive down without getting stuck, according to Brings.
Streets effectively turned into one-lane roads by towering snow banks on both sides have been a major problem for buyers trying to get out and see homes, Brings noted.
But many other sellers are deciding to put off listing their homes until the snow melts.
McLaughlin said she has had to push out one listing into April as the sellers scramble to deal with water damage caused by ice dams on the roof.
The same thing is happening in Boston as well, said Neda Vander Stoep, an agent in the Back Bay office of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.
“Many sellers are holding off on listing their properties with the hopes that it will be easier for all to navigate the city as the temps hopefully begin to rise,” she wrote in an email.
In Arlington, Heffernan said she has had clients who were ready to put their homes on the market on April and are now looking to May instead.
Sellers are concerned that buyers simply won’t be able to get a full feel of their homes and what they look like, she said.
One would-be seller in Boston decided to delay for similar reasons, noting buyers wouldn’t be able to see the deck out back, a potential selling point.
“You can’t see the foundations of the house let alone the flowers in the yard,” Heffernan said.