Business Buzz: The good (real estate) and the bad (Nissan) of the 2020 pandemic economy

Jan 08, 2021 at 12:00 pm by Michelle Willard

Sold!

In a year marked by ups and downs, Middle Tennessee's economy saw the biggest roller coaster ride.

Two of the main engines driving the economy in the midstate are the housing sector and automotive assembly. 2020 was a tale of two industries with the real estate market outperforming the previous year and the car industry taking a hard hit from the global pandemic.

According to the Red Report, the local residential real-estate market rebounded and surpassed 2019's record year.

"Looking back at March/April, I was ready for another huge recession that was different from anything we've ever seen with a whole different set of issues. Thankfully, that concern was wrong, and we were spared what could have been a terrible year," said Steven Dotson, president of Red Realty and issuer of the Red Report.

With closed sales up 6% and prices up 12%, 2020 was definitely better than expected on the real-estate front despite all the bad news literally everywhere else.

"National economists think that 2021 will be even better than 2020 because they expect the economy to improve creating more jobs and more demand for housing," Dotson said. "One BIG issue we have is inventories are at an all-time low of 2.3 months ...

"Whatever your opinion is, most agree 2.3 months is way too low. Inventories at the end of 2020 are 44% less than they were at the last peak 2006 market when sales volumes were less than they are today. Days on Market have also gone from 43 in 2006 to 24 days in 2020," Dotson said.

Most experts believe four to five months of inventory is a healthy market, but with supply this low and demand high, skyrocketing prices are the next logical conclusion.

"There are several reasons home prices could go down, but I think the crazy low inventories combined with an improving economy adding more jobs are a recipe for demand to be very strong which has to increase prices," he said.

Dotson said he isn't sure "we are going to outprice the market" in 2021 because overall prices in the Middle Tennessee market are still very affordable compared to the rest of the nation.

Nissan sales hit pandemic roadblock

2020 wasn't as rosey for Nissan as for local real estate agents.

Earlier this week, Nissan Group announced total U.S. fourth-quarter (October-December) sales for 2020 of 243,133 units, a decrease of 19.3 percent versus the prior year. Nissan Group also announced total calendar year 2020 U.S. sales of 899,217 units, a decrease of 33.2 percent compared to the prior year.

That said, there were a few highlights in the fourth quarter. Sales of the Versa were up 89 percent in the fourth quarter over the previous year (+8,502 units). The Smyrna-made Nissan LEAF had its best quarter overall since 2016. Also 2020 was the best calendar year ever for Kicks.



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