DES MOINES, Iowa — A lot of industries have been hit hard by the pandemic, but real estate is not one of them. In fact, the National Association of Realtors named Des Moines one of the top 10 real estate markets for resilience in the pandemic.
Sara Hopkins has been helping people buy and sell houses in central Iowa for a decade, and she’s never seen a year like this past one. “2020 was a record-setting year. There are several contributing factors,” Hopkins explains, “first, incredibly low interest rates. And they just kept getting lower and lower. I’ve had people locking in at 2.3%, which is insane!”
Record-low rates mean incredible savings – it means on average; mortgage payments are about 20% less than they were two years ago. “I can’t tell you how many clients reached out to me because they were home schooling and home working and their homes did not accommodate that,” she adds.
This is the big factor – people need their homes to be home and work and school and more. “We thought maybe somewhat temporary, but the reality is, this is the new lifestyle,” says Hopkins, “this is the new way people are going to be living in their homes.”
And it turns out, a lot of people want their homes to be in central Iowa. “Another trend that’s happening purely because of COVID-19 is out-of-state buyers,” which is the biggest surprise Hopkins said. “I have a client from California that just googled – best place to raise a family – they bought here sight unseen – we did everything via FaceTime!”
There’s one problem with the run on real estate here. It’s creating an inventory shortage. “So there’s a huge new construction boom,” Hopkins explains, “which is shocking because new construction prices are up so much.”
The boom means a shortage of everything from lumber and shingles to appliances and even land. “We’re seeing all of these lots scooped up. People have been ready to build with a certain builder and we couldn’t find a lot!”
That’s leading to lots of renovations. In fact, this week Hopkins has meetings with at least half a dozen clients who want to know what they should do upgrade their homes. “You’re never going to go wrong investing in things like home offices, home gyms and outdoor living spaces. It’s so interesting the way the market has shifted and changed and I love being a part of it,” says Hopkins.