D.C.'s Real Estate Jobs and COVID: Where Does the Residential Market Stand?

The residential housing market in the Washington, D.C., region is a bustling one. Largely due to the heavy concentration of people consistently moving in and out of the area for government, military, and contracting jobs, this tends to create steady jobs in this real estate sub-sector.

DCs Real Estate Residential Market

Let us take a look at how D.C.'s residential real estate job sector performed before, during, and what it'll likely look like after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

Before the pandemic

Nationally, real estate, rental, and leasing jobs rose by 65,500 in 2019 which was almost a 4,000 job gain over 2018. D.C. experienced cyclic real estate ups and downs in the last decade, but generally remained steady and kept people employed. In January and February 2020, the local market was in the midst of a residential boom.

Then came March 2020

Officials in D.C., Virginia, and Maryland declared public health emergencies and issued stay-at-home orders, bringing the industry to a standstill.

During the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic created interesting dynamics. Initially, real estate professionals were worried they would lose their incomes once buyers stopped looking and sellers pulled listings. Shortly thereafter, market conditions rapidly changed. After its initial lull, the housing market exploded. Real estate professionals had to pivot to accommodate high consumer demand, partially fueled by historic low interest rates. Suddenly, the DMV found itself in one of the "craziest" real estate upticks in 15 years and the residential subsector flourished, despite a low inventory of homes.

As a result, local real estate brokers and agents found themselves busier than ever as people relied on them to help them navigate their moves during the uncertainty of a pandemic. In May 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the D.C. region as one of the U.S. metro areas with the highest employment levels for this sector. Combined, real estate agents and brokers totaled almost 8,000 jobs.

Industry professionals largely worked remotely. To further adapt, they took on new responsibilities. To continue operations, they provided virtual tours, conducted remote closings, used electronic signatures, conducted crowd control amongst eager bidders, enforced COVID-19 safety protocols, and essentially integrated technology into their processes wherever they could to help connect buyers and sellers.

Looking toward the future

While the D.C. residential market remains busy with no signs of slowing, the job security of traditional real estate jobs might be less stable. Even before COVID-19, AI, robots, and other innovations were poised to change the real estate landscape to perform the mundane tasks. This was predicted to occur pre-pandemic, but COVID-19 accelerated technology's role in real estate. There is no going back. Real estate is an industry likely to "fall prey to AI and the technological evolution," according to Upnest, indicating automation will impact the jobs of 97 percent of brokers and 86 percent of real estate sales agents. Furthermore, BLS predicts real estate broker and agent jobs will grow just 2 percent by 2029.

Once COVID-19 is behind us, restrictions lifted, and buyers increasingly grow comfortable with virtual buying of residential property, how will this impact industry jobs? If predictions come to fruition, real estate professionals will need to adapt in a post-pandemic era. They can pursue jobs as appraisers, assessors, property managers, inspectors, home stagers, foreclosure specialists, leasing experts, and related services. Potential new opportunities may be found in the residential subsector as well.

  •  Tech-oriented jobs to build/maintain apps and software.
  •  Photographers to produce quality imagery.
  •  Writers to create neighborhood and property descriptions to help market properties online.
  • Knowledgeable individuals to offer services to protect seller privacy, perform negotiations, and serve as mediators when disagreements arise.

Professionals willing to take steps to embrace new technologies and identify ways to deliver highly personalized real estate services that automation cannot fulfill will also better position themselves to thrive in the residential housing market.

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