Housing Market Hot Through Pandemic

Chances are, the extra traffic you’re seeing around the county isn’t all courtesy of tourists. Door County real estate brokers say they’ve seen a surge in home sales during the summer.

“The market has been absolutely on fire,” said Craig Bastian, a real estate broker with Kellstrom-Ray Agency in Sister Bay. 

Kevin Nordahl, a broker and partner at True North Real Estate in Fish Creek, said the months since the coronavirus pandemic started have been like nothing he’s ever seen.

It’s a trend that’s happening nationwide, driven in part by historically low mortgage rates, but a couple of factors make Door County unusual.

Nordahl explained that April and May are generally busy listing months here, but with the coronavirus this spring, the typical inventory that would have gone up for sale didn’t.

“Anybody who had a house in Door County who might have been on the fence about selling decided to use it as their own personal refuge,” Nordahl said. “There’s nothing quite like a pandemic, I think, to create some kind of inward focus on your own mortality and what’s important, and Door County is a bucket-list item for a lot of people.” 

Diane Taillon, broker and owner of Arbor Crowne Properties in Ephraim, said that the coronavirus and subsequent Safer at Home order in the spring drew two forces together.

“It seems since COVID-19 began, we’ve had an increase in buyers who wanted to leave cities and go to more rural areas,” Taillon said. “Part of that trend as well is that people are working from home, and they can continue to work and be in an area where there is more space around them.”

Brokers say that the new Door County home buyers represent a range of demographics, including families and retirees, primary- and second-home buyers. 

Trent Campbell is one of those buyers. In August, the Richfield, Wisconsin, resident closed on a condo at the Sister Bay Yacht Club. He said he and his wife had been looking at waterfront property for several years to use themselves and as an investment property.

“The COVID-19 situation made some units available when they might not have been otherwise,” Campbell said.

As for other buyers, Bastian said he’s seen a lot of demand for homes in the $500,000-$600,000 range.
“Buyers want newer and nicer, and they’re willing to pay for that,” he said.

Taillon said the strongest demand she sees is for homes under $400,000: properties that sell “almost immediately, and we’re seeing definitely a high percentage of multiple offers.”

Like so many others, real estate brokers have had to adapt their business practices to accommodate social distancing and other safety precautions, especially when it comes to in-person showings.  

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Brokers say some homeowners want people to take off their shoes or wear gloves, and potential buyers are wearing masks. Taillon said she asks clients not to touch any surfaces, especially light switches and door handles.

“I always get to showings early to have the front door open, closet doors open and lights on. I open the cupboard doors so they don’t have to.”

Taillon also said she’s doing a lot of her own video walk-throughs and FaceTime tours – for out-of-town clients especially – so they can see properties without having to travel. 

Nordahl said he thinks people’s attitudes have been an important factor in adapting to new procedures during the pandemic. 

“Door County and the people who come here – and the people who call this home and who want to call this home – have a healthy respect for the people who are here and their sensitivities during this time.”

“We help each other up here,” he said, “and it’s a really wonderful thing.”

As we move into the final months of 2020, brokers say they’re looking for more homes and condos to sell. Taillon said she expects prices to remain strong, and Nordahl said it could be a record year.

Bastian doesn’t think that’s all good news. He said the low inventory and high demand mean some people are paying — in his opinion — more than a property is worth.

“It scares me a little bit,” he said. “People overpaying for property is not a good thing.”

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