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Just How Hot Is Northern Vermont's Housing Market During COVID-19?

People stand on the shoreline of Lake Memphremagog in Newport.
Liam Elder-Connors
Henry Epp spoke with Newport based real estate agent Jim Campbell about how the pandemic has and has not affected the housing market in Northern Vermont communities, like those along Lake Memphremagog.

There have been plenty of anecdotal stories this summer about the influx of people from larger cities around the northeast scooping up properties in Vermont, as the Green Mountain State continues to see relatively low rates of COVID-19.However, a report from the Vermont Housing Finance Agency this month shows that through June, the state's housing market wasn't breaking any records. In fact, it was about on par with last year. But according to real estate agents, there does seem to be a lot of interest from beyond Vermont's borders.

That's true even in far northern Vermont, according to Jim Campbell, the owner of Jim Campbell Real Estate in Newport. He says he's seeing plenty of interest from buyers in other states, but a drop-off in interest from Canadian buyers, as the border remains closed.

VPR's Henry Epp spoke to Jim Campbell about the Northeast Kingdom real estate market. Their conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Jim Palmer: We are getting a lot of interest from out of state, albeit we're very limited as to whom we are allowed to show properties to, so that's been a bit of a challenge.

You know, there's guidelines in place that we have to abide by in order to allow someone from out of the area to come here. So we, in many instances, have to decline just based on the rules that are in place.

Henry Epp: You've been in the real estate business in that area for over 40 years. How would you compare this market to what you've seen throughout your career?

We've seen a definite spike in interest. I think there are a lot of people that are just, you know, thinking that maybe they can work remotely now. They may not have realized that in prior years. And I think ever since the COVID thing hit, they're rethinking their lives and saying to themselves that maybe they don't have to live in a big city, or they realize they get a lot of bang for their buck up here.

More from VPR: Audio Postcard: How To Sell A House In A Pandemic

I'm not sure if it's going to hold on, because after 9/11, we did see an increase. I would say this one's more so. But I haven't necessarily seen a real spike in prices yet. I think inventory is being bought up. So typically, when that happens, you do see an upswing in prices. But again, we tend to buck the trends of other areas, where we don't have swings in our real estate prices. We don't see big dips, but we also don't see big increases.

In the Northeast Kingdom that is?

That's pretty much in the Northeast Kingdom. I think the Burlington area and Chittenden County might see the swings when we never do. We just see an active or not active market. That's what happens here. But we just don’t see price swings up here in the Northeast Kingdom.

You're close to the Canadian border, which, of course, is closed right now. Is that affecting real estate in the area at all?

[There’s a] lack of Canadian buyers for a couple of reasons: They can't come down and their dollar is worth much less. So we really don't have the Canadian interest that we once had. But what I am seeing is Canadians that have properties down here are looking to sell them for the very same reasons: They can't come and use them and because they realize they'll see a pretty good increase in the amount of dollars they receive when they convert the U.S. to the Canadian dollar.

More from VPR: With Canadian Border Closed, NEK Tourist Spots See Big Drop

In terms of looking forward to the fall, do you have any predictions or expectations for where the real estate market might be headed?

Interestingly enough, I had that conversation with another principal broker this morning. And we were talking about it, and we both feel that it's going to, you know, slow down from what's happening currently, especially when they find a vaccine that works. In the interim, I think it's going to continue pretty strong.

We typically see a slowdown once the snow starts to fly. So is that going to be the same this year? It's really hard to predict. And, you know, as long as I've been in this business, I've tried to predict trends. I've tried to figure out where the market is headed, and to this date I’ve been unable to do so; there's just no crystal ball there that you look into it and it predicts it.

But I have told numerous sellers that have been contemplating selling for the last two or three years, if you're really thinking you do want to sell, this is a good time to talk to your favorite agent and say, ‘Hey, let's do this.’ Because I can't believe it's going to continue like this. I just can't believe it's going to. Doesn’t seem possible.

More from VPR: The New 'Beckoning Country'? City Buyers Eye Vermont Property As COVID Sanctuary

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or tweet host Henry Epp @TheHenryEpp

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Henry worked for Vermont Public as a reporter from 2017 to 2023.
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