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‘Good-natured competition’: Real estate industry booming during COVID-19 in Carroll, statewide

Sharon Callahan got into real estate because she wanted to transfer her business sense to helping people buy and sell homes.

Callahan became a business owner at 25 years old when she owned and operated a garden center called the Potting Shed on Falls Road in Brooklandville before getting into real estate in 1984. She worked for O’Conor, Piper & Flynn, one of the largest brokerage agencies in Maryland, now owned by Coldwell Banker, for more than 30 years.

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She was offered a management position at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Homesale Realty in Westminster about four years ago and maintains dual licenses for Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Callahan said the industry has seen plenty of changes in the 37 years she has been in the business, especially with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

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“It’s been amazing to watch how the business has evolved,” Callahan said. “The real estate industry has done very well. Last year was an astounding year and this year is starting off to be as well. This industry has been a miracle because so many people have suffered.

“Although we have struggled for sure … the most important part of our business remains the same.”

The real estate market has accelerated as homebuyers continue to take advantage of the conditions brought on by the pandemic to purchase properties. Mortgage rates hit a record low, which makes buying a home more affordable for buyers even if it means borrowing more.

Sharon Callahan, right, chats with agent Carole Stencil in an office at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Homesale Realty in Westminster Thursday, March 25, 2021. Callahan said the real estate industry has seen plenty of changes in the 37 years she has been in the business, especially with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Sharon Callahan, right, chats with agent Carole Stencil in an office at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Homesale Realty in Westminster Thursday, March 25, 2021. Callahan said the real estate industry has seen plenty of changes in the 37 years she has been in the business, especially with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Inventory has been a challenge for buyers because homes are selling at a much faster pace after going on the market, forcing them to make swift decisions.

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In 2021, the active inventory in Maryland is 6,245 as compared to 18,179 in 2020, according to data provided by MarketStats by Showing Time based on listing activity from Bright MLS.

“Buyers have to be prepared for when they want to look at homes, they have to be ready,” Callahan said. “They have to be pre-approved for a mortgage and have to be ready to write an offer quickly because if they wait, it’s you snooze, you lose.

“It’s great if you have listings, but if you’re trying to get buyers into a home, you’ve got to have your fancy running shoes on.”

As of Feb. 2021, the median sale price for a home in Carroll County was $364,250, a 10% year-over-year increase, according to redfin.com. There was a 9.9% increase in number of homes sold with 166 and the median number of days on the market dropped 77.8% to 14.

Office Administrator Lisa Grotte updates the settlement board, creating a new column for a busy March, at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Homesale Realty in Westminster Thursday, March 25, 2021.
Office Administrator Lisa Grotte updates the settlement board, creating a new column for a busy March, at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Homesale Realty in Westminster Thursday, March 25, 2021. (Dylan Slagle)

The number of median days on the market decreased state-wide from 29 days in 2020 to eight days in 2021, according to the MarketStats data. There were 6,209 sales settled in Feb. 2021, a 12.3% increase from Feb. 2020 that saw 5,527 settled sales.

“Because things are moving so quickly, a good buyer’s agent will already have an offer, not the amount of money, but a contract written all prepared for their buyer,” Callahan said. “In the event they see the house they want, the buyer is prepared with an earnest money deposit, pre-approved for a mortgage and the agent almost has the contract written so their buyer is in first place.

“It’s very different than it used to be, and it’s highly competitive.”

Callahan said brokerage is a special field because agents care about their customers and focus on giving them the best customer service they can. She currently oversees about 38-40 agents in the Westminster office who are driven by the services they provide for potential homeowners.

Callahan said the real estate community in Carroll County is close-knit and her biggest joy is watching her agents succeed.

“Each brokerage has their own way of running their business,” Callahan said. “I’m not saying anybody is wrong, but we’re all different. … Even when we are competing with agents from other brokerages, either for listing or for a sale trying to get our buyer into that house, it’s good-natured competition.

“We’re professionals working together for the common good of everybody.”

Sharon Callahan manages the agents of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Homesale Realty in Westminster. Callahan said the real estate industry has seen plenty of changes in the 37 years she has been in the business, especially with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Sharon Callahan manages the agents of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Homesale Realty in Westminster. Callahan said the real estate industry has seen plenty of changes in the 37 years she has been in the business, especially with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. (Dylan Slagle)

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