Will COVID-19 Shift Conditions to a Buyer’s Market or Seller’s Market?

The current market stall in response to COVID-19 presents a unique challenge for market tracking moving forward, and likewise for buyers and sellers trying to understand the housing market that they are walking into. Months’ supply represents the dynamic between listings and sales. As each side of the homebuying transaction responds distinctly to the COVID-19 situation, this dynamic shifts, and “buyer’s market” and “seller’s market” labels along with it.

So, will COVID-19 shift conditions to a buyer’s market, or a seller’s market?

On the one hand, the rate of new listings entering the market has gone down dramatically, adding very little new inventory to the national pool of listings. Likewise, there are fewer closed sales due to social distancing measures. The lack of new listings bottlenecks the potential of sales. If the downturn is roughly equal in listings and sales, then months’ supply as a metric would continue its current trend.

However, as the market resets and picks back up later in the year, listings and sales will likely ramp up at different times, which will have distinct effects on this buyer/seller relationship. As listings reach a critical mass to entice prospective buyers, this accumulation of listings will drive up months’ supply figures, temporarily shifting us to a buyer’s market. Then, as the rate of buyers catches up to listings, this sales and listings dynamic will continue to balance out. Where it ends up at the end of the year, however, remains to be seen.