By Paul Maryniak
Looking back at 2021, realtors might be tempted to paraphrase from Charles Dickens: It was the best of times and the craziest of times.
Just ask Greg Hollman, the Scottsdale-based president of Coldwell Banker Realty Arizona, a position he has held the last seven of his 25 years in home sales.
As he looks back not just at this year but the age of COVID-19, he marvels at how the economic uncertainty of the first couple months gave way to one of the hottest housing markets — and one that defies most conventional real estate wisdom by showing no end in sight.
“It definitely has been an interesting year,” Hollman says.
“When you go back to COVID-19 originally coming on to the news media and not knowing the effects that it would have and how it actually ended up in many ways outliving predictions of doom and gloom and has actually excelled ever since, I think that is a very interesting fact.”
And surprising, he adds.
“I think it took most of us by surprise — not knowing how people would react to a situation during a pandemic,” Hollman says. “But if you think about it in hindsight, it makes sense.
“I mean, we’ve had a historically low interest rate. And you had a situation where people were seeking homes that worked better in their current situation — homes where they could work from home. And there were those who wanted to make sure that they weren’t waiting longer to achieve their dreams and just decided to pull the trigger and get it done. So, I think it’s surprised most everybody.
“I haven’t seen a market like this, certainly, at this kind of sustained clip that we have seen. Just when we think it might be cooling a little bit, the market picks up again.”
Fueled by high demand, a historically low inventory and a huge migration of people to Arizona, “it’s just been a very, very strong market this past year,” Hollman says.
“A lot of people are looking to move up, a lot of people are looking to move into areas that they desired for a long time but couldn’t do so because of their job location and now they’re able to. And certainly, it’s been a more difficult market for first-time buyers and people trying to get into the market because they’ve been worried about the increasing prices.”
The market also has put new demands on realtors, Hollman says.
“It’s caused us to concentrate on making sure that we were representing” their clients in “the best possible way,” he says, explaining that “the hot market has increased the need for agent expertise as an adviser and that’s something that we have worked hard and definitely fulfilled.”
He notes the market has “been particularly more difficult for buyers because of the number of offers that are out there. We’ve made sure that we have the proper …continuing education for agents to make sure that they were able to get the best possible situation for their buyers.”
Even so, “it’s been difficult for entry level buyers,” Hollman says. “And of course, you have situations where people need to sell in order to move up and buy a house, which can cause some difficulties. So, you have to navigate around that process, and we’ve worked very diligently to make sure that that is the best possible scenario for everybody involved.”
He says Coldwell Banker during much of the pandemic “also brought tech to the forefront to help with what was going on during that time period, such as remote closings and things that we had to do in order to help the transaction close and the safety of those involved in the transaction.”
Turning to next year, Hollman says, “They are predicting price increases on a national basis for markets across the country and I believe that we’re going to have a lot of buyers out there.
“You still have people who were sitting on the sidelines waiting in their perception for the market to slow little bit because some of them had put in multiple offers multiple times and had not won the property.”
In addition, the new-home market can barely keep pace, partly because of demand and a worker shortage and because supply chain disruptions are “delaying getting homes from breaking ground all the way to the marketplace.”
And while he wouldn’t call the state recession proof, he notes, “Arizona has had a lot of people desiring to move here from other states. And even in relation to many places, while the prices have been increased significantly, when you compare them to some other metro areas, we’re still a good value.
“I think long term with the companies that are moving here, the jobs that come with that, and the level of livability you have here in Arizona, I think it bodes well, for the future.
“I think could continue to be a tight market for the foreseeable future here. You have people moving in from other areas, you have people who want to retire here. And the good news is that more jobs bring increased buying power for consumers. So that’s an absolute positive in this whole scenario.”
But one possible not-so-positive scenario confronts first-time buyers, he suggests — at least for those who don’t want a long commute.
Given rising prices in the markets close to Phoenix, they might have to look farther for an affordable home.
“I tell people within my own family who are first-time buyers: start where you can,” Hollman explains, calling it a “stepping stone process.”
“I think that you need to be prepared as a first-time buyer and working with a very, very strong agent and know that you might not get the first home you want,” he says. “You’ve been on even the second or third, but be tenacious about it don’t give up and have faith in the process.”
He also expects realtors will be busy next year.
“Our Coldwell Banker stats show us the first-time buyers are putting other milestone situations on hold — like weddings and other things — in order to buy a home and homeownership is being prioritized with millennial buyers. So they’re kind of working on what’s important to them.”