In March, Susan sat down with Arkansas Business to discuss how 2020 changed the real estate market, what to expect this year, and other market trends. Below is the article with the link to the feature on Arkansas Business.

2020 turned out to be a big year for residential real estate. Did that surprise you?

It was indeed a record-breaking year for the real estate industry — and definitely for our agency. In 2020, our agency volume was up 48% over 2019 with exactly the same number of agents. Going into 2020, we forecasted a 25% increase based on the sustained low interest rates, the strong economy and forecasts from Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in the United States, we couldn’t tell what was going to happen for the first 30-45 days. By early May, however, it was clear that the market was responding very aggressively. A diminished selling inventory began to shrink even more.

We found that about 1 out of every 4 of our homeowners wanted to buy a different home to better accommodate their family for at-home life, work, school and play. That was a game changer in every way possible.

What has the first quarter of 2021 led you to expect? Have you spotted any trends?

For the first time in my 15 years in this industry, we are meeting most of our buyers’ needs with properties that are not even on the market and selling clients’ homes without needing to go to the full market. The processes needed for that to happen are vastly different than those in the typical buyer and seller process. Buyers are often competing in multiple-offer situations, and homes are regularly selling for more than their list price while sellers have their pick of the buyers. Even though the inventory is as low as it has ever been, our sales volume is up 27% in the first quarter of 2021 compared with the same period in 2020.

The biggest challenge is that most people who actually want to sell right now are reluctant to put their home on the market until they know they have a place to go that fits their needs. It’s a Catch-22. If everyone who wanted a different home would list their current home, there would be plenty of inventory to choose from. Sellers are absolutely in the driver’s seat for price, concessions and possession.

Now that interest rates are creeping up, further deterring homeowners who refinanced at or under 2% from reselling, I still anticipate that our volume in 2021 will at least reach the 25% increase we forecasted at the start of the year. Anyone thinking of selling their home in the next three years is unlikely to get more for it in 2022-2024 than they would be likely get this year.

However, we learned from 2020 that we never truly know the future.

What are homebuyers looking for, and what’s driving the sales boom?

In addition to low interest rates, homeowners have redefined leisure time with family and reconsidered how, when and where they will work. Many discovered they need additional rooms or larger homes to accommodate two full-time jobs at home. Others want larger lots or acreage so that family activities can take place on the property. Interest shot up in homes with pools. Pandemic-related construction delays and soaring material costs also helped keep demand well ahead of supply.

Born in Arkansas and raised in Dallas, Susan Desselle returned to Little Rock in 2006 with her husband, Michael, and two children, who are now grown. She opened Desselle Real Estate in 2014 with a goal of providing agents with “professional development, skill enhancement, closing coordination, transaction management, office management, listing services and marketing support.”

In October, after a delay of several months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Desselle Real Estate relaunched as Capital Sotheby’s International Realty, the second Arkansas affiliate of the Sotheby’s International Realty network.