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Cambridge Real Estate Market Remains Steady Amid the Coronavirus Crisis, Brokers Say

The Cambridge real estate market's pricing and demand has remained mostly steady amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to area brokers and landlords.
The Cambridge real estate market's pricing and demand has remained mostly steady amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to area brokers and landlords. By Jonathan G. Yuan
By Jasper G. Goodman, Crimson Staff Writer

The Cambridge real estate market’s pricing and demand has remained mostly steady amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to area brokers and landlords.

Though the virus has forced property owners to conduct virtual showings and some are allowing for greater flexibility, the market has not seen a major shock.

“Cambridge isn’t just Harvard students. Cambridge is a mix of people from all kinds of places doing all kinds of jobs,” said Alan Savenor, who manages Plum Properties, LLC. “And so there’s still pretty good demand out there.”

Jeremy Raynor, a rental agent for Apartment Rental Experts, said the cancellation of in-person summer programming at Harvard has not had a noticeable effect on demand for rentals.

Summer housing at the DeWolfe Street Apartments, which are normally available for license to Harvard undergraduates, has been suspended due to the pandemic.

Raynor said some landlords have opted to lower rent slightly and are allowing for greater flexibility on some policies.

“Definitely on the time, the move-in date, the price, and pet policies, I’ve personally noticed a fair amount of flexibility,” he said.

The City of Cambridge enacted an emergency order last month barring evictions and “non-essential entry” by property owners and agents. Landlords have now switched to showing properties virtually.

“You need to point out not only the pros of the apartment, but you need to point out the cons as well,” Raynor said. “You want to make sure that when people do move into an apartment in September that they know what they’re getting, and they’re going to be happy in that apartment.”

Myra von Turkovich, a Cambridge realtor with Leading Edge Real Estate, said the showing process is “a different animal” amid the coronavirus. Despite a decrease in inventory, she said properties put up for sale on market are selling at or above the asking price.

For short-term Airbnb renters, however, the virus has been more disruptive.

Robert Najarian, a Cambridge-based actor who rents out his room via Airbnb while he travels for work to help with mortgage costs, said he has seen demand fall to zero amid the pandemic. After the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic, Najarian said, all of his scheduled reservations were cancelled within days.

“There has been radio silence for any kind of reservations,” he said.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Airbnb is expected to lose $1 billion in the first half of 2020 as many hosts are struggling amid a mass surge in cancellations.

Patricia Mazza, a longtime Cambridge real estate broker, said that, as the state of the fall semester at Harvard remains uncertain, so too does the property rentals market. Mazza said many of her tenants are academics and visiting scholars at the University.

“It’s just not a predictable market for anyone,” she said.

George Zygouris, director of sales and operations at Cambridge Realty Group, said he has seen a dip in the market but expects it to recover.

“Obviously, the universities affect the markets. They always do around here,” he said. “Usually when the economy dips, people go back to school. So the Cambridge market is always going to maintain, if not survive. We may have a little dip right now, but in general, it’s a strong market and it always will be.”

Savenor, the Plum Properties manager, said he isn’t concerned about the impact of a potential remote fall semester.

“I think it will affect less the demand for my apartments, but it will probably more affect the mix of people that I get,” he said. “Cambridge is a melting pot for people from all over the world, whether they’re in school or not. I expect that if a graduate student doesn’t take it, then some young professional person will take it.”

—Staff writer Jasper G. Goodman can be reached at jasper.goodman@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jasper_Goodman.

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