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CAPTAIN’S LOG: 2021, COVID-19, YEAR II

How does a real estate broker version 2.0.20 start thinking about what’s to come in 2021? By finding solace in the surreal. So step aside, crazy year, and let the “Star Trek” times roll.

“Captain’s Log, Stardate 43125.8, supplemental. Our computer core has clearly been tampered with, yet there is no sign of a breach of security on board. We have engines back and will attempt to complete our mission.”

“Commander Data’s neural network has been vacated.” [Editor’s Note: Data is an android.]

How do you even begin to reflect on 2020, the year that brought life as you knew it to a halt? How do you rationalize a year that challenged nearly every aspect of your daily routine?

We’ve all watched it unfold from our couches and makeshift home offices — 2020 has quickly become a year uncannily proficient in testing the entire human race’s ability to deal with a pervasive sense of disempowerment and shifting reality. And, true to form, the real estate market was paying attention and reflecting our battles right back at us.

The amplitudes of 2020 — similarly eerie to those seen on graphs charting the country’s infection rates — were an abomination of both logic and emotion, the two elements at the root cause of both upticks and downward trends. On days with little news, the real estate market would wake up down and stay down or even take a plunge. Then it would seemingly turn temporarily elated, despite the gravity of COVID-19 numbers being shouted from the rooftops. Then, it would descend again for no apparent reason. Or it would be seen shattering records. And then, yet again, it would leave assets and homes to fend for themselves, letting them become enveloped in cobwebs on the modern-day listing data aggregators’ websites.

It would certainly seem that New York City’s real estate market, just like its human factor, had essentially been performing a fight-orflight dance throughout 2020. Without ever truly flatlining (thankfully!), the market made all those small and big moves that normally tend to strike fear into the hearts of real estate analysts.

At this juncture, I think that most of us are ready to choke 2020 off and hope it never returns. This, naturally, begs another question be posed: what will 2021 bring?

If we choose to label 2020 as the “Year of the Crazy” (perhaps harsh, but very, very close to truth), then the coming 2021, at least now at the close of 2020, can easily be nicknamed: COVID-19, Year II, for it is entirely unknown to any (wo)man what to make of the near future.

Analysts tend to rely on a market’s past performance when attempting to peek into the future. But this year? How will we know after the year steeped in anomaly? Who’s to tell? Will the winter bring frost to the price levels and turn transactions into icicles? Or will it help keep the market warm for a glorious thaw in the spring? If any years prior to COVID-19 Year I are to be taken as an indicator of the months ahead, then a quieter winter, leading to a strong spring sales season, would make sense. But COVID-19 has displayed a strong tendency to obliterate our habits, our mores and generally things that we took for granted.

New York State stopped the clock on the city’s real estate on March 22. Poignantly, not a single arm’s-length sale — either residential or commercial — was reported closed in the borough of Brooklyn that day, according to “Brooklyn: New York City Sales Data from September 2019 – August 2020” from the New York City Department of Finance. Not one. But the next day, 17 closed. And then there were 20 the day after. At the time of this writing, with some 530 residential sales recorded by the city’s clerks in August, the real estate wheel keeps on turning.

So what should we expect in Year II as we try our best to live with this new inhabitant that has made itself so comfortable in the backs of our minds?

Probably some more of Year I.

Aleksandra Scepanovic
Ideal Properties Group
Brooklyn, NY
ascepanovic@ipg.nyc
(718) 840-2757

 

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