Will the Delta variant impact the housing market like its Alpha counterpart?

Looking back, the COVID-19 pandemic had a strange and unexpected impact on the housing market in 2020 when the Alpha strain encompassed the United States.

While people were losing jobs, businesses were closing down and unemployment rates were soaring – it was hard to buy a home. Open houses were all but verboten. Would-be sellers felt the anxiety of the pandemic and either pulled their home off the market or never listed it to begin with out of fear it wouldn’t sell.

But then, something happened. After a brief slow down at the start of the pandemic, as the summer of 2020 approached, the housing market started to respond robustly and a housing boom that is still going strong more than a year later, was born.

“It’s hard to say how it’s going to affect the housing market,” Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com told their website. “The next couple of months are going to be pretty key to see which gear the housing market [shifts] into.”

Prices are unthinkably high. Buyers get into bidding wars with each other over the limited supply, often times winning their bids by going over list price, or by offering cash deals.

Now, COVID-19 is rearing its ugly head again. This time with the even more contagious Delta variant. Which begs the question, how will it impact the housing market this time?

It could completely flip the hot housing market on its ear again, or it could just be a passing phase that impacts data for a couple of months before things return to the new normal of demand far outweighing the supply.

There is a real debate among those in the housing community. Delta has brought back masks – even for vaccinated individuals – as a recommendation to help squash the virus once more. And with the return of masking recommendations, the country is again splitting on political divides, and it is leading to more economic uncertainty for the U.S. in the global economy and has also led to financial markets that are all over the place from one day to the next.

“It’s hard to say how it’s going to affect the housing market,” Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com told their website. “The next couple of months are going to be pretty key to see which gear the housing market [shifts] into.”

The Delta variant has also led to the return of falling mortgage interest rates, just as they were starting to inch back up toward pre-pandemic levels.

If you combine this with the possibility of returning back to the country being shut down as it was in the Spring of 2020, this could bring more buyers to the market – looking to get a home with a locked in fixed mortgage interest that is near historical lows. But, this can also lead sellers to once again be scared to sell amidst a health crisis, reducing inventory even further, sending prices to unfathomable highs and pricing out most first-time homebuyers and even other middle income earners looking to upgrade their home.

Is another lockdown likely? No. But, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. How Americans will handle the anxiety or frustration that could come with that, or with simply the possibility of another stay-at-home order, could go both ways.

That’s because many Americans might be completely fed up with the pandemic, and are less fazed this time around, even if the variant of the virus is more contagious than the original. This will become even more evident if another lockdown is avoided.

Sellers, especially if they are vaccinated, may not care one iota about Delta, and still list their home for sale. And buyers, even if they are unsure about visiting strange homes in the midst of the pandemic, will still tour homes online and maybe bid on them sight unseen.

There’s also the notion that pandemic anxious buyers may have already gotten into a new home between the Alpha and Delta breakouts. Meanwhile, those waiting for prices to come down may still be doing that and those individuals who are actually returning to a workspace that isn’t in their home may now want to avoid getting into a new home that will make their work commute that much longer.

As such, Delta may not have a real impact on the housing market, unless quarantines and work and school shutdowns return.

Where Delta is having an impact is on mortgage rates.

According to Freddie Mac, in late July, the mortgage rates fell to 2.78% on a 30-year fixed-rate loan.

As such, if things continue to get worse with this fourth round of the pandemic, the rates will stay low or even sink lower.

About the American Property Owners Alliance
The American Property Owners Alliance (The Alliance) is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization created to protect and support property owners and pave the way for future property owners. Our mission is to educate property owners about federal issues, laws and policies; to advocate for owners’ rights and interests; and to mobilize, when necessary, to secure those rights and interests.
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