BizWorthy: Housing And Rental Markets Show Two Sides Of Pandemic

Aug 20, 2020

People are experiencing the pandemic in very different ways. That's particularly apparent when it comes to the housing market in Charlotte. Home prices are soaring and many are snatched up in a few hours. At the same time, the demand for rental assistance is high. The Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter reported on those dynamics this week. We talk to the Ledger's Tony Mecia for our segment, BizWorthy.

Lisa Worf: Good morning, Tony.

Tony Mecia: Good morning, Lisa.

Worf: So why are home prices rising when unemployment is so high because of COVID-19?

Mecia: You really have a couple of different things going on. You have really two different sides of the market. On the one hand, you have the for sale side, which is going surprisingly like gangbusters. That obviously cratered a little bit when Realtors couldn't show homes and everybody was locked down in March and April. But, that's pretty much picked up where it left off in terms of people going out, looking for houses, putting bids on houses, bidding up the prices, short supply.

At the other end of the market, on the rental market, that's where you're seeing a lot of the effect of this recession that we're in. A lot of the people that are being hurt by this and that are suffering are people who are in service jobs. They're in retail, they're in restaurants, they're in hospitality. They tend to rent more. So it's really a difference in which end of the market it is.

Worf: So, last week, we got a better idea of how people in different jobs are feeling the pandemic with the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance's second quarter economic report. Looking at that divide, what's that like in Charlotte? How bad were some of the job losses over the different sectors? And were there any gains?

Mecia: There were. The biggest losses tended to be in those hospitality type of jobs -- the restaurants, hotels. Those numbers have fallen by about 40%. But you did have some small increases. You know, Charlotte's always been known for financial services. I think it eked out a small increase. Tech, I think, has remained relatively strong. You've seen some sectors that have held up better than others.

And so, when you talk about the housing market, a lot really depends on what are the jobs that we're talking about. You might remember, Lisa, that in the last recession, a little over 10 years ago, that was a lot more widespread. I mean, that was a financial crisis that hit the financial institutions and white-collar jobs a lot harder. So this time, we're not really seeing that. A lot of it tends to be concentrated on lower-income workers.

Worf: Now, as far as rental assistance, is that making much of a difference in keeping many people in their homes now?

Mecia: Well, I think it is. I think there's a tremendous need for that. You know, that's gone up a lot even just in the last few weeks, because we've seen the supplemental unemployment insurance -- which could be up $600 a week -- we've seen that expire. We've seen moratoriums on evictions go away. So, you're seeing some big increases in the need for rental assistance. But I think there's no doubt that those sorts of programs can help keep people in their homes.

Credit Curtis Adams / Pexels

Worf: Talking appliance shortages. Your managing editor, Cristina Bolling, went on something of an expedition recently for a washing machine. Why was it so hard for her to find one?

Mecia: Well, that's a very good question. A lot of heavy appliances, maybe surprisingly, Lisa, are in short-supply nowadays. And it's not so much that people are doing more laundry or washing more dishes. They're certainly probably doing more dishes. They're probably doing less laundry because everybody's wearing sweat pants and yoga pants for a long time. I'm speaking theoretically. I'm not speaking about either of us, necessarily.

But the problem is really more on the supply side, Lisa, where a lot of factories that are overseas that have problems getting parts to assemble some of these appliances or they're in factories where the workers have to spread out a little bit more, they can't produce quite as many. So the production of a lot of things like washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, those sorts of things -- the supply is not there. And some people are having to wait a number of weeks to get the appliances that they want.

Worf: Now, a new car dealership seems to have slighted some in Pineville for trying to use the name "South Charlotte." What happened in this case?

Mecia: Pineville has a number of car dealerships within its town limits, including Mazda of South Charlotte and Mercedes of South Charlotte that identify themselves on signs saying, "of South Charlotte," even though they are actually in Pineville.

Well, there's a new dealership that is developing some land, going to build right at 485 and South Boulevard, just over the town limits in Pineville: Hyundai of South Charlotte. Now, when it presented its plans to the town of Pineville, Pineville said, "Hey, you're in Pineville. This isn't South Charlotte. We would prefer that you not have South Charlotte in your name."

And so they changed the signs so it would just say "Hyundai" on a clocktower piece right by the entrance. But now the name "of South Charlotte," Hyundai of South Charlotte, it's still going to be on the building. And so there was some debate from the town commissioners as to whether that was disrespectful and slighting the town or whether that was just some of the dealership's branding that it had spent a bunch of money on and whether that should be allowed to continue.

So they are going to allow the sign on the building, it sounds like, Lisa. So that'll be another "of South Charlotte" car dealership in Pineville.

Worf: That's Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger. Thanks, Tony.

Mecia: Thanks, Lisa. 

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