Canada's Condominium Magazine

Real estate a hard sell in city with historic snowfall

Pity home buyers and sellers and the real estate agents who work in cities like Boston these days. More than two metres of snow has fallen already this month, with snowbanks on a lot of streets so high that houses are nearly invisible from the road. So much for drive-by viewing and curb appeal, not to mention the idea of driving around the neighbourhood to get a feel for it. Many for-sale signs are buried, as are the house numbers, so would-be buyers can’t find properties that way. Some realtors have had to cancel almost all of their weekend open houses on account of snow, killing business for the month.

Those who are brave enough to make appointments to see properties often find that they can’t get there because of snow-related traffic problems. If they do make it through, buyers are often faced with houses that are virtually invisible from outside. How do you inspect the backyard or the roof, foundations, chimneys or even windows when they’re buried in snow? Some agents who manage to get conditional offers in are finding that deals are being delayed as home inspectors can’t do their jobs. There are stories of inspectors scraping snow and ice off roofs just to get a look. In some cases, the build-up of snow on the roof only exacerbates an existing leak problem, so buyers see the home with all the tell-tale signs of water damage in ceilings and walls.

In one case of a problem that one wouldn’t even foresee under normal circumstances, a realtor complained of not being able to get the “staging” furniture out of a house she had sold.

As one Boston-area realtor told the Boston Herald, “It’s just daunting. It’s dangerous. There’s no parking. People have ice dams. They don’t want snow trucked through their house. They have their own problems.” And there could be liability issues for sellers if a potential buyer slipped on the ice and injured herself.

On the other hand, Boston, like Toronto, has a low inventory problem. Sellers who do list have no trouble attracting buyers. Multiple offers are not uncommon. Realtors there say that once the snow melts down to more manageable levels, there is going to be a flood of new listings hitting the market, and plenty of pent-up demand to go after them. A reporter for the Boston Business Journal said that despite the big mess that exists now for realtors, buyers and sellers, they are expecting a booming spring market to go right through May, June and even July.

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