“Zoom towns”, a new term that you can add to your lexicon. These are scenic places experiencing a surge of house hunters. Booming demand comes from workers freed by the pandemic to work from home long term. One place where the pandemic has charged greatly, an already hot real estate market, is Bend, Oregon.
“I think ‘Zoom town’ very accurately captures the experience that we’re having right now,” said Brian Ladd, a Principal Broker with Cascade Sotheby’s International Realty in Bend.
“For anyone that had interest in moving to a town like ours, that plan was greatly accelerated because of COVID,” Brian Ladd said in an interview over Zoom. “When they were able to work remotely, or they were forced to work remotely, all of a sudden it became an option.”
Brian Ladd’s observations are shared by brokers in some outdoorsy, vacation destinations around the Pacific Northwest. Zoom towns could include Sunriver and parts of the Oregon Coast besides Bend.
The housing market nationwide has shown remarkable strength in 2020, driven by low-interest rates and desire among buyers to acquire more elbow room. What distinguishes the Zoom towns is strong in-migration this year from larger locales. At these destinations, home sales since late spring have gone on a tear, resulting in very low inventory and rapidly rising housing prices.
In Bend and surrounding Deschutes County, the average residential home price in October was up 17% year over year. The median sales price in October in Bend was $560,000. Brian Ladd said the average number of days on the market for desirable homes to go pending is around five days, which means many homes get multiple offers.
“What it felt like is it really unleashed a whole wave of people who had had the dream of moving and living in a beautiful place like this, and it seemingly all happened at once,” said Brian Ladd.
Bend, Oregon is the epitome of COVID-19 accelerated real estate sales. After only a few weeks’ pause in March from new restrictions, out of town buyers doubled down on Bend as the perfect escape from their respective cities. After evaluating the quality of life and relatively lower cost of living in Bend compared to our feeder markets like the Bay Area and Orange County/ LA, for example, Buyers have been even quicker to move here in the second half of 2020 than in past years. Why Bend? Buyers are choosing Bend over other markets for many reasons, including the year-round outdoor lifestyle (skiing, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking on the rivers & mountain lakes, golf, horseback riding & more), easy direct flights to West coast markets for ease of visiting clients and friends & family, luxury amenities with a laid back lifestyle, and an overall better quality of life. Bend is the perfect escape from restrictive or chaotic worlds.
COVID-19 set the precedent for working from home, so people started asking themselves, why not work from home in another city? It’s now common for lenders to ask for written proof from Buyer’s employers that the Buyers can indeed work from home in Bend. Contingent purchases are more commonplace as Buyers are willing to put their homes on the market the minute they write an offer on a home in Bend, but even more so cash offers are dominating our sales. Bend has recently been named by WalletHub as the second-fastest growing city in the nation, with COVID-19 clearly a contributing factor.
Examples showing the accelerated growth in Bend since COVID-19 based on sale prices and days on the market (DOM) abound. One of my listings in a desirable neighborhood sold for $905,000 in April, 2020 after 171 days on the market with 2 price reductions. A home on the same street with almost identical specs is currently pending in just 10 days. Listings at all price points have yielded multiple offers – as many as 22! – and are selling for up to $200,000 over asking price which is a new phenomenon in our market since COVID-19.
This graph depicts a sharp increase in median price in 2020 compared to past years during June through September across multiple years. From just the same period a year ago, we saw a 2% decrease in median price in 2019 compared to an 18% increase in 2020. We will continue to be in a strong Seller’s market until new inventory can catch up with demand, but since most people don’t want to leave Bend we’ll rely on new construction to fill the gap.