In the past month, Mike Coverdale, a real estate agent with 30 years of experience in the Westport area, has noticed an increase in interest for purchasing in that market.
“I listed a couple of oceanfront lots in our nicer oceanfront development, and normally that would take the summer to find buyers for it. It’s just not something that immediately people jump up for. And they were both pending within a week,” Coverdale said.
Coverdale believes COVID-19 is keeping Washingtonians closer to home and they are starting to notice the beauty in their own backyards.
“There’s a group of people in Western Washington and King County that never really considered the Washington coast for their leisure, for their vacation time, because they can afford to go out of state and go to other places,” Coverdale said.
Kasey LeClerq and husband Nick of Bellevue are both surfers. They recently bought property at Cohasset beach and plan to build. They had been eyeing the area before COVID-19, for about a year.
However, historically low interest rates were a factor for LeClerq and her husband in buying, LeClerq said, as well as the affordability of the area and the draw to the beach.
The appeal of being able to drive less than two hours from their home in Bellevue to catch some waves is a big pull to the area, particularly when the idea of getting on a plane for a vacation seems off in a distant, and uncertain future.
“I don’t know when we’re getting on a plane again, but it’s not soon,” LeClerq said. “[Westport is] two hours away from home and it feels like a vacation.”
LeClerq said that it might seem counterintuitive to be buying during a pandemic and economic crisis, but it made sense for her and her family. “If you can make it happen, in our opinion, it’s a really great time to do it,” LeClerq said.
Coverdale said he is also noticing people purchasing properties to live in year-round. “There are more people that are selling their homes and moving here that are of the working age that can work from home,” he said.
“I’ve met more people, not because they call me to ask about beach real estate, but because I was out in the beach area and saw people driving around lost and confused, investigating the town,” Coverdale said, saying he acquired six new clients in a recent week through these interactions.
According to the Redfin Westport Housing Market webpage, the average sale price of homes in Westport in the past month was $200,000, an 18 percent increase since last year. According to the same webpage, 41 percent of houses are selling under list price and homes sit for an average of 63 days on the market. The Zillow Westport home prices and values webpage lists average home price at $183,316, an 11 percent increase since last year.
While Coverdale explained the inventory in the area is small as not many current homeowners are selling, he said some have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and tough economic times, meaning some people are selling their second homes in the area.
And, the local economy is struggling because of the pandemic, Coverdale said.
According to the Employment Security Department for Washington State’s Local Area Unemployment Statistics, Grays Harbor, the county where Westport is located, was at a 19.3 percent unemployment rate in May of 2020, the highest in the state. The state total was 14.8 percent in the same month, according to the monthly employment report from the Employment Security Department for Washington State.
Retail, one of the top three highest paying industries in Westport according to the Data USA Westport website, has been one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the local economy struggling, the ones purchasing homes in Westport are people with the extra budget for a second home or who can work from home, Coverdale said.
Coverdale said the noticeable increase in home purchasing has been in homes priced in the higher end, as there are fewer properties in the $500,000 and above market. Inquiries by buyers with budgets of near $1m have also been increasing, Coverdale said, which he said is unusual for this market.
Coverdale explained that “buyers are coming from so many areas that there are enough people that aren’t impacted by it (the struggling economy) that can qualify to purchase to keep our market strong.”
King County, where Coverdale sees many homebuyers coming from, had an unemployment rate slightly lower than the state total, 14.3 percent, in May of 2020, according to the monthly employment report from the Employment Security Department for Washington State.
Coverdale said he sees the trend of increased homebuying in the Westport area continuing after the pandemic is over, citing long-term decisions to work from home as companies stray away from dense office spaces and the comfort of vacationing closer to home in a smaller town.