Across the U.S., Inventory Remains a Concern, Says CEO and President of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices
Chris Stuart is CEO and president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices as well as CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC, based in Irvine, California, which operates and manages real estate brokerage networks.
In his role, Mr. Stuart, 47, oversees all operations pertaining to Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Real Living Real Estate and the Real Living Real Estate brands.
Mr. Stuart, who’s also based in Northern California, joined HSF Affiliates in 2015, assuming leadership of franchise sales a year later. In 2017, he was named senior vice president of business development and operations, and by 2018 oversaw daily operations of most departments at the company.
Before his arrival at HSF Affiliates, he was part of the executive leadership team at Intero Real Estate Services in Silicon Valley.
We caught up with Mr. Stuart to discuss bright spots in the current market, where opportunistic buyers may go, and more.
Mansion Global: How do you expect Covid-19 to affect the real estate market in the short term?
Chris Stuart: The biggest pain spot at the moment as a result of the pandemic is the number of new listings coming into the marketplace. As we entered into March, there was a lot going on and a feverish pace to the market. We were on pace to be right around volumes—closed and pending sales—not seen since before the recession, the fastest in 12 years. And we had historically low levels of inventory. You had this crazy amount of appetite and activity. Then the pandemic hit, inventory went down even further, but the demand didn’t follow proportionately.
The problem we had in 2008 and 2009, was that we had 10 months of inventory. Going into this recession we only had three. What happened in ’08 and ’09 was you had some sellers forced to sell because of foreclosure, which means they were also not in the buying pool, so you had too much inventory and that hurt us.
Now, values are increasing, and sellers are going to be welcomed with the idea that their home is worth more now than in February and March, and they may consider selling. It won’t be the same situation as in ‘08 and ’09.
MG: Will buyer tastes change dramatically?
CS: Many potential buyers who’ve been on the sidelines will see opportunity to buy in places like New York and other metros. But we are seeing people either permanently changing their change-of-scenery or second homes.
It’ll open a whole new swath of buyers who were otherwise not in the market, and that will add to the demand side of the equation. We’re hoping that some prospective sellers will see there’s an opportunity to cash in and put their homes on the market.
MG: Are there certain parts of the country you expect to become more popular?
CS: We have a company in the Florida Keys where we’ve sold four properties sight unseen, and we’re seeing that elsewhere in the U.S., too. We’re seeing double-digit appreciation on the Gulf side of Florida, in the Keys and parts of the Carolinas.
Areas outside Philly, estate properties in Central New Jersey, areas where listings were sitting for hundreds of days are becoming 20- to-30-day rentals.
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MG: How would you describe your dream property? And has that changed post-Covid?
CS: New York is my favorite place in the world, and I’d love to live across from the Metropolitan Museum.
My taste hasn’t changed post-Covid. I’m not at all concerned about it. Just wash your hands, don’t touch your face. I don’t worry about it.
MG: What does “luxury” mean to you from a real estate perspective?
CS: This is one of the areas that our industry has gotten so wrong. It should be about the elegant integration of property, and surrounding elements—whether that’s a golf community, coastal or on a lake.
It has to be about the property’s integration into its surroundings and the things that are important to you. The industry is so property-centric, but it’s all about context.
MG: What’s your favorite part of your home?
CS: I have two—a poker/cigar room and my outdoor living area with a pizza oven and fire pit.
MG: If you could live anywhere for awhile, where would it be?
CS: I’d say it would be New York. After college I lived in Hoboken and worked downtown. New York is still my favorite place.
Outside of that, somewhere on the Mediterranean coast—in Spain, the South of France, maybe somewhere in Italy.