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Will coronavirus and civil unrest cause a flight to the suburbs?

(Windermere Real Estate)

The economy appears to be in a recession, and Seattle home prices are lagging.

Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner joined Seattle’s Morning News to discuss the latest local housing snapshot, and how current events may be impacting the housing market.

“The first thing that did strike me … is the modest drop we saw a year over year with home prices in King County. But interestingly, it was just King County. You still see that significant price growth in Pierce County and a bit less up in Snohomish County.”

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With the unfortunate looting that went on in some places downtown, does that at all have a significant economic effect, or given the depth of this recession, is that just small potatoes?

“You’ve got to be very careful when you parse certainly this particular topic, but if I literally put my economic blinkers on for a moment on and look at it purely from a mathematical standpoint … shorter term, obviously, a lot of retailers have been hurting for the last couple of months … If they have gone through a situation where they have been looted or have had their buildings hit, that’s just another financial hit to them, and obviously because of that to the economy as well,” he said.

What is the potential coronavirus risk of mass protests?

“It is too early to say yet, but if we do believe a lot of people are going to continue to work from home, then we can actually see a flight potentially out of our downtown area. We know a lot of restaurants and bars aren’t gonna make it back. Maybe some of the retail won’t. So are we going to see a change in the vitality of our downtown core?”

Does this mean those suburbs are back? For a while there, people were leaving the suburbs for the city and some suburbs fell into decline. So is this the resuscitation of suburbia?

“I think it’s too early … But knowing that one in three jobs in America can be done remotely without ever having to go to the office … It does beg the question that given where housing affordability or the lack there of is, certainly in King County, are we going to see that push further out into potentially those markets?”

“I think it’s an open question right now.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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