“To everything there is a season.”
Real estate has always been a story of shifts and transitions, and of lives changed through a home or parcel of land. The Covid-19 pandemic, beginning in March 2020, was a life altering state of being that few people in our lifetimes have experienced, much less contemplated.
“A time to refrain from embracing.”
Two years ago almost to the day, I was en route to the doctor with what I thought might be the initial stages of a cardiac event, but what was actually stress, passing the cars lined up at the ferry with people seeking refuge on Shelter Island from Covid. Near pandemonium reigned at every turn, with no one knowing what the future held. Real estate professionals relied on NYS Governor Cuomo’s mandates that came via often confusing messages from Albany. During the lockdown when all real estate agents were prohibited from physically showing properties, some nevertheless conducted public open houses. In addition to the requisite property brochures, surveys and registration disclosures, added to the toolbox were Covid-19 questionnaires, plastic gloves, sanitizer and masks. Wiping down doorknobs became routine. Everyday niceties, such as handshakes, quick hugs, cheek pecks, and breathing the same air flew out the window.
The 2016 Presidential election brought a surprise outcome for many customers who were already shopping for a home on Shelter Island, and there was a postelection pause as prospective buyers cast an eye across the horizon. The SALT tax reform in late 2018 led prospective buyers to sit out an entire year to review the effect on their bottom line. By tax time 2019, many customers were ready to re-enter the market–what they found was a backlog of inventory and a wide range of options; I had over 40 listings at that time.
The robust pandemic real estate market did not begin overnight, but was instead a steady and sometimes cautious climb over a period of approximately six weeks; No one knew how close to the contract price a property would appraise, or whether the assigned appraiser would even be equipped to compose a balanced report. In one instance, a young appraiser from a family business of appraisers conducted a report of a very special waterfront home, and then recommended that the bank lend “not one cent”. During this initial period, there were often few or no comparable sales, so the type of mortgage being applied for was scrutinized as part of the offer process and cash offers won out. Hard money lenders came back into the arena with higher than average interest rates and enticing programs that sometimes confused buyers.
Initially verging on a buyers’ market during the first quarter of 2020, the norm then shifted to one of sprints, push-ups and heavy lifting with little replenishment of listings. The current sellers’ market has been the result of little supply and pent up demand. While many buyers explore various lenders, most recognize that interest rates are still historically low and that jumbo loans are still competitive and readily available.
“A time to build up, a time to break down. A time to dance, a time to mourn.”
With the easing of Covid protocols, customers became more mobile, and the most recent spring break found customers and clients becoming reacquainted with friends and family, vacationing outside the immediate geographic area resulting in a quiet period in the market.
“A time of love, a time of hate. A time of war, a time of peace.”
If a worldwide pandemic were not enough to comprehend, supply chain delays and inflation have become another real world concern. Clients of mine who completed a spec house in less than six months wisely purchased all of the materials prior to breaking ground in November 2021. Customers who had already purchased a home to renovate have had delivery complications or have postponed projects altogether. Clients who had planned to sell their homes and move to a construction project on vacant land realized that their goals on both fronts needed to be re-examined. One client said “Hopefully, peace will come soon to Ukraine, but when that happens the entire world will be contributing materials to rebuild an entire country.” Some customers have opted to invest in real estate over a volatile stock market. Activity in the rental market has increased only in the last week with the warmer weather and the realization that for this summer, a vacation on Shelter Island closer to home might be more economical than travel that includes exorbitant fuel, hotel, car rental and airline tickets.
“A time to be born, a time to die. A time to plant, a time to reap. A time to kill, a time to heal. A time to laugh, a time to weep.”
With the weight of the responsibility toward others, and the care and concern that comes with working under a constant state of duress, I was not aware of the mental and emotional toll all of these things were taking on my own health. My mother died of Covid in September 2020. I stayed on top of my work, which is a mainstay and a passion. One of the rewards of my labors was being able to pay veterinary bills that had accumulated since 2017. During the pandemic I also lost three of my dogs, two of whom had come to me in 2004 and were a fixture in my daily real estate life, riding with me to showings in my car, named “the dog taxi”. When my doctor declared I was “shedding”, I thought for certain he was referring to my dog in error, however he was describing hair loss exacerbated by stress.
In late March this year, as the world began to open up again, I began attending concerts and Broadway shows which have always been a big part of my life. I realized that hearing live voices, seeing the creativity and dedication of talented performers, and being a part of the civility and unity of an audience, essential at a concert or play, had re-ignited a pilot light of sorts within me. Music I have loved seemed to flow back, like an incoming tide, to my brain and my heart. The focus on survival and gratitude I have had for the past two plus years evolved into a feeling of positivity, renewed energy and light.
“A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together.”
With the heightened awareness of my conscious mind, I recognize the effect the last two years during the pandemic has had on others around me as well: customers, clients and those in our community, whether through their recounted experiences or sometimes just by the tone of their voices. Real estate colleagues, many of whom I have worked with for more than twenty years, and with whom I further bonded in the trenches of the last two years, have been in a similar survival mode.
“A time to every purpose, under heaven.”
Real estate as a business will always have its ups and downs, as in the past. But being open to others, to listen without judgment and hear where people, especially children and seniors, are in the process of venturing back out into the world, is essential for all of us to recover and there is no place quite like Shelter Island to recharge the soul.
Save a Turtle!
Turtles need a hand crossing the road especially during the periods where they come out of or go into hibernation and are looking for a place to lay eggs. If you would like to host a sign on your lawn to spread the word, please stop by my office at 9 Grand Avenue in Shelter Island Heights across from the US Post Office and pick one up in exchange for a tax deductible donation to the Turtle Rescue Center of the Hamptons
Did you know most turtles travel less than one mile from their nests during the course of their lifetimes? Or that when a turtle is injured, because of their slow metabolism, if they are left unassisted, they can pass away in a very slow and painful fashion. Automobiles, lawn mowers and even fast moving bicycles have the potential of injuring or killing these little creatures. Box turtles are on the list of endangered species and can use a helping hand!
If you see a turtle – or any animal – in need of assistance please contact Jenny Zahler at 631-749-5571 or firstname.lastname@example.org at Shelter Island Animal Control.