Opinion | The People Who Actually Had a Pretty Great Year

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“The market is absolutely bonkers,” said Dave Westall, a real estate agent based in Tahoe City, Calif. The noncommercial real estate market throughout the country is indeed having a bit of a “bonkers” moment — the average price for a home in October 2020 is 6.6 percent greater than in September 2019. And the Lake Tahoe area is particularly hot. The average price for a home in these Nevada-California borderlands is reportedly up 17.7 percent from 2019, while there are 30 percent fewer homes on the market.

Most buyers that Mr. Westall has encountered are from the Bay Area. “They have the ability to keep their high-paying tech jobs,” he explained. “They can work remotely, maybe indefinitely, so they’re making moves.”

This has spawned some serious first-world problems: “Demand is exceeding supply,” Mr. Westall said. “It’s extremely challenging for buyers, because almost every sale is a multiple-offers situation.”

Though Mr. Westall is reaping the benefits of the boom, he insists not everything is peachy. “I have a lot of empathy for people that are struggling,” he said. “This summer has been really hard on me and my family. I don’t want to say, like, ‘Oh woe is me’ because it’s kind of my choice, but right now I have to work three times as hard as I’ve ever worked.”

Among other things, “I’m not seeing my kids as much,” he said.

Naturally, there are other people, in less luxurious settings, who have also had their lives oddly change for the better during the pandemic. There are those who haven’t been affected financially, but have enjoyed the changes in their day-to-day routines. For William Jagnow, a 40-year-old who lives in Chicago and works in regulatory compliance investigations for the federal government, a shift to working from home has vastly improved his life.

Not only has his hour-and-a-half daily commute been erased, he has had more time to spend with his family. His wife gave birth in June. “I got six weeks paternity leave,” he told me. “And at the end of that, being able to work from home made it so much easier to see the baby and help my wife.”

Like many of us who have taken up midday walks, exercise or family errands during typical work hours, Mr. Jagnow said knows he’s “very fortunate to have the same amount of money, but a lot more time.” A September survey by a consulting firm found that less than one-third of employers offered child-care discounts or subsidies. Meanwhile, child poverty and hunger have increased since much of Congress’s emergency aid began to expire in the summer. Mr. Jagnow, a self-described socialist, said that “everyone should feel as stable as I do now.”



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