The most popular topic of conversation at any social gathering is always food and restaurants. But the second most popular topic is certainly real estate. We find people are endlessly interested in real estate, even if they are not personally in the market. Here are seven questions we hear often, especially since the pandemic started.

What’s selling right now in River Oaks?

If it is totally remodeled, updated throughout, move-in ready and in a premier location, it has been selling in a flash. You may ask “so what’s new about that?” The answer is that these properties are selling for much more than one would have expected. Well-to-do buyers are prepared to pay a premium to get what they want without having too much hassle to move in.

Also selling quickly (though not quite as fast) are lots or, more likely, potential teardown houses, that are in premier locations. Again, buyers are paying a premium for the location and the right configuration for their future custom new construction.

More challenging locations and houses that need significant updating have been much slower to sell and more subject to price resistance.

Excluding your own, what is your favorite River Oaks listing?

There’s a relatively small house at 2219 Del Monte – just a two-bedroom, really – priced at around $2.4MM. It has been stylishly remodeled recently but has kept its vintage flavor. Despite being smallish, it has a number of spaces that are pleasant to spend time in. The back garden is very pleasant, too. This house is likely to appeal to someone who is downsizing. Naturally, it went straight into contract within the day and is set to close within the month.

2219 Del Monte. Click images for source.

I also want to mention a pricier house that sold earlier this year, on Inverness by Willowick. A one-and-a-half story house with the primary bedroom on the ground floor – a rarity in River Oaks – it had been completely remodeled tastefully for the previous owner. We thought we had the perfect buyer for this house, but the timing wasn’t quite right. It went into contract to another buyer within days but had a protracted closing period and a last-minute switch of buyers, because of damage caused by the February freeze. Despite the high price tag it was a bargain.

The River Oaks market was so very hot the first half of the year. How is the second half shaping up?

We haven’t seen the same level of closed sales since Labor Day as we saw in February through June. But new contract activity in September and October, so far, has been very respectable, and we anticipate closed sales in October to be as high as 12 houses. That’s only second to the 16 closed sales in March of this year.

Showing activity has also been higher since Labor Day than in the fall of any of the past three years, despite relatively low inventory. And the high activity has been at all levels of the River Oaks market. That is an early indicator of strong sales numbers for the rest of 2021.

Have there been any recording-setting transactions in 2021?

The records have been shattering like plates at a Greek wedding. There were a few hush-hush sales of large houses on big lots priced well into the eight-digits, and, additionally, Teresa and I were professionally involved in record-setting large and small lot sales in the neighborhood.

What has been the best bargain so far this year?

A particularly sweet deal on Stanmore involved a spec builder who had been patiently on the lookout for a good buy. The house, on a relatively large lot for that part of the subdivision, had been on the market in 2020, but nobody could see the lot for the house, and it sat unloved for months. When it returned to the market this summer, said builder swooped in, buying the property at a 30 percent discount to what other spec builders have been paying for equivalent lots.

Is there a “typical” buyer for River Oaks right now?

It is tempting to say something sardonic here. But there are many very affluent younger buyers around. This is a broad generalization, but I would say that, while affluent, they are more price sensitive at the lower price-points and more lavishly determined at the higher end of the market.

Looking back over the past 20 months, how would you say the pandemic has affected real estate over all in River Oaks?

The key effect of the COVID-19 experience for River Oaks, as we have discussed in a recent newsletter, is that we are experiencing two years of sales activity taking place in 2021. The pandemic has been a catalyst for both buyers and sellers. So many of them were saying “We were already planning to … buy/sell/retire/move up/downsize (you name it). Life is short, let’s just do it.”

Looking forward, that does not mean that there is a new threshold number of sales per year. That is not sustainable. We also caution that this year’s high sales numbers will cannibalize sales in 2022.